Masdar Institute signs MoU for drone satellite hybrid airship project
Abu Dhabi's Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the independent, research-driven university focused on advanced energy, and sustainable technologies, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Thales/Thales Alenia Space and French engineering university MINES ParisTech to develop applications for the Stratobus drone-satellite hybrid airship.
The agreement will see Masdar Institute work to develop Stratobus environmental applications for the UAE. The project’s first six-month phase will define the needs of Stratobus's UAE users while under phase two, Masdar Institute will interface with UAE users to define their environmental application needs, develop detailed specifications and technical processes, and define and develop specific software algorithms to be included in Stratobus's control centres.
The Stratobus is being developed by Thales Alenia Space together with French and European partners. Effectively a hybrid between a drone and a satellite, Stratobus will be positioned at about 20 kilometres over its theatre of operations, in the lower stratosphere layer where the air is sufficiently dense to lift the airship balloon and the winds are low. With its involvement in the project, Masdar Institute says it expects to advance its role in driving cutting-edge innovation in earth observation technologies to bring sustainable benefits, locally, regionally and globally.
The Stratobus will carry technical equipment allowing it to perform surveillance of land borders or sea sites, environmental monitoring, climate change impacts and provide telecommunications services. To be fully autonomous, Stratobus will incorporate innovative technologies such as high efficiency flexible solar cells supplying a strong electrical power on board. Thales Alenia Space and partners plan to launch the first qualification and certification flight in 2020.
Jean-Philippe Chessel, Stratobus business line product manager explained: “We believe our partnership with Masdar Institute will result in the development of many useful applications, breakthrough technologies and new knowledge in the field of environmental monitoring.”
Thierry Ranchin, professor and director of the Observation Center, Impacts and Energy, MINES ParisTech, said the high-level scientific collaborative research will prepare the ground for the use of major environmental monitoring innovation in UAE and worldwide and possibly effectively support the Climate Risk and Early Warning System (CREWS) initiative objectives.