Plans for 5G signals to be beamed to the public from the sky above via drones have been announced by two UK firms.
They want to use pilotless drone aircraft equipped with powerful 5G antenna. The idea is that the aircraft, powered by an emission-free hydrogen fuel cell, would remain airborne for up to nine days at a time and deliver high-speed connectivity to vast areas.
The two companies, Stratospheric Platforms and Cambridge Consultants, say they could cover the whole of the UK with about 60 drones, with each aircraft replacing at least 200 masts. Each drone would cover an area of 140km (87 miles) in diameter below, and users would get download speeds of about 100Mbps – allowing them to download a typical four-gigabyte movie in under six minutes.
Cambridge Consultants have designed and tested the antenna, however the drone required is still at the design stage. The Stratospheric Platforms aircraft is designed to fly at an altitude of 20,000m (65,617ft) but is yet to be built and tested with the hydrogen fuel cell and 5G antenna on board.
The Cambridge-based companies say they would run the service in partnership with existing mobile operators, and they already have backing from Deutsche Telekom, who hope to trial the new tech over rural southern Germany in 2024.