In 2020, SoftBank Corp.’s HAPSMobile Inc. and Alphabet’s Loon LLC successfully tested their jointly developed communications payload in the stratosphere on HAPSMobile’s “Sunglider,” a solar-powered unmanned aircraft system (UAS). (Photo: HAPSMobile)
SoftBank Corp. ("SoftBank") announced that it has acquired approximately 200 patents, including patents pending, for High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) from Alphabet Inc.'s Loon LLC ("Loon") following the winddown of Loon earlier this year. With these patents, SoftBank and its subsidiary HAPSMobile Inc. ("HAPSMobile") will collectively own approximately 500 HAPS-related patents, including patents pending, further establishing their position as intellectual property (IP) leaders in the HAPS industry. The patents are related to network technologies, services, operations and aircraft for HAPS.
SoftBank and HAPSMobile will utilise this expanded patent portfolio to accelerate their preparations for commercial HAPS services. Furthermore, as founding members of the HAPS Alliance, an association of cross-industry players working to enable a HAPS ecosystem, SoftBank and HAPSMobile intend to utilise their HAPS IP portfolio to promote standardisation and interoperability in the HAPS industry.
HAPSMobile and Loon had a strong track record of collaboration. In April 2019, HAPSMobile and Loon formed a strategic relationship to advance the use of HAPS vehicles. In February 2020, both companies founded the HAPS Alliance and jointly completed development of a communications payload. In September 2020, this payload was used to deliver LTE connectivity from HAPSMobile's "Sunglider," a solar-powered unmanned aircraft system, during its first stratospheric test flight, marking a world-first for a fixed-wing autonomous aircraft. The sale of Loon patents is in line with SoftBank's commitment to support the HAPS industry and find ways for Loon's innovations and technology to live on.
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