Thales Alenia Space (the joint venture between Thales and Leonardo) and Thales have signed a contract with the French defence procurement agency DGA to carry out a concept study concerning intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) applications using a Stratobus type platform.
The aim of the contract is to study the benefits of continuous stratospheric platforms to improve and expand France’s defence and aerospace-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
More specifically, the contract includes studies of:
- An operational concept study for an ISR mission including exercises simulating its use in theatres of operation; and
- A full-scale demonstrator concept, capable of flying in the stratosphere to demonstrate the in-flight performance of an ISR mission of this type.
Thales Alenia Space’s Stratobus is an autonomous stratospheric airship in the HAPS (high altitude platform system) category, operating from an altitude of 20 kilometers. Offering continuous regional coverage, it’s a perfect fit with satellite solutions.
Stratobus can carry payloads for the surveillance of borders and high-value sites on the ground or at sea (such as video-surveillance of offshore platforms), as well as security (the fight against terrorism, drug-trafficking etc), environmental monitoring (forest fires, beach erosion, pollution etc) and communications (internet, 5G).
Jean-Philippe Chessel, director of the Stratobus product line, explained, "The aim of this contract is to assess the relevance of Stratobus type continuous stratospheric solutions to meet defence needs, and also marks a major step forward in the definition of a possible operational solution in conjunction with users."
Stratobus type stratospheric solutions offer two main advantages:
- It significantly increases the area monitored by a single platform, especially by eliminating terrain masking; and
- It offers an ability to linger over an area, thus improving resilience in relation to current naval, airborne, ground and space solutions.
"It will enable us to prepare the foundations for the development of a complete solution, including high-reliability autonomous avionics, as well as all control aspects. We are aiming to carry out a flight demonstration by the end of 2023," Chessel added.
"The Stratobus project has been supported by the French government from the outset within the scope of the Investment in the Future plan and a European regional development fund (FEDER) for the French Riviera region."
Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures.
Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our solar system and beyond.