Helikite launched ahead of initial Coverdale trial

As North Yorkshire attracts more visitors via festivals and events, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) £6.4 million Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY) project is exploring how temporary 4G and 5G connectivity can be brought to rural areas.Helikite

Over the past month, the team from the Department of Electronic Engineering at the University of York – which is led by Ericsson 5G Trailblazer and Director of Centre for High Altitude Platform Applications, Professor David Grace – has been trialling the technology at the University’s rugby fields at York, which has included their first flight of a 34m3 Helikite.

The Helikite is a combined tethered helium balloon kite aerial platform, which can be deployed up to 400 metres in the air enabling temporary connectivity for event goers and opportunities such as aerial video streaming.

This larger platform complements their existing 21m3 version and provides a larger payload capacity of up to 15kg meaning it can provide temporary wireless services for longer and provide a wider range of applications. This provided the team the opportunity to include a higher power amplifier, which will extend the area covered by Helikite based wireless services, and the types of rural events that can be served.

This recent trial ensured the team were familiar with the logistics of the larger Helikite. It will support the next trial in Coverdale – set to take place at the end of November. This will test the 4G and 5G capability and coverage of a test network, complementing the 5G network to be provided by Quickline Communications – the lead technical partner of the project.

Following this, a second trial will take place during the MANY project’s final conference in March 2022.

Future plans include trialling further wireless applications using the wireless payload operating on the ground. This work supports another MANY partner – Safenetic’s and their work on the Mission Critical Communications use case.

Post MANY the team will test further 5G and beyond applications using the Helikite and drone systems available at York. The team will pioneer tests of Quantum Key Distribution to provide secure communications services using different forms of aerial platforms, including high altitude platforms that will eventually operate in the stratosphere.