High altitude platforms (HAPs), also called stratospheric platform radio (SPR), or high altitude long endurance (HALE) stations refer to the reusable unmanned aeronautical vehicles, stationed in stratospheric altitudes, which provide an alternative to the satellite and terrestrial telecommunication system. High altitude platforms ensure access to several telecom services in shorter deployment times and at lower costs.
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Positioning radio stations at higher altitudes in order to achieve better services over an expansive region is not new. High antenna masts have been in use since the conception of radio, and satellite technology has taken the radio antennas at altitudes as high as hundreds and thousands of kilometers. The high altitude platforms technology focuses on exploiting the benefits of altitudes that lie between satellite and terrestrial technologies. HAPs are positioned well above the altitude at which commercial aircrafts operate.
Lower Operating and Maintenance Costs Lead to Increased Popularity of High Altitude Platforms
Such high altitudes enable HAPs in providing telecommunication services such as broadband and narrowband communication streams, navigation, and persistent surveillance. HAPs are also commonly used for applications such as environmental monitoring and aerial imaging, and most other applications deemed fit for satellite and terrestrial technology, at lower prices owing to the need for minimal ground infrastructure and the consecutive reduction in operating and maintenance expenditures.
A market research report published by Transparency Market Research (TMR) states that the global HAPs market, which was pegged at US$2.30 bn in 2014, will expand at a favorable 8.7% CAGR over the period between 2015 and 2023. The growth will partly come from the rising application areas of HAPs in the fields of surveillance, telecommunication and defense, and partly from the significant rise in capital investments from government and private research bodies. Systematic studies on HAPs and their potential application areas have been undertaken in the past years and are still carried on in countries such as the U.S., the U.K., China, Slovenia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland.
High Demand for HAP-based Surveillance in Asia Pacific to Boost Market’s Growth
The key application areas that utilize high altitude platform systems include the commercial sector and government and defense sector. Currently, the government and defense sector account for the largest share in terms of applications of HAPs in the global market, which use the technology for enabling effective surveillance capabilities.
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From a geographic perspective, North America is currently the largest regional market for HAP. Owing to the high adoption of tethered aerostat systems and advanced UAV aircrafts, especially in the U.S., North America is expected to maintain its dominant position in the global market over the near future as well. Nevertheless, the market for HAPs in Asia Pacific is projected to expand at the fastest pace of an estimated 10.0% CAGR over the period 2015-2023, according to the TMR report. The high growth prospects of HAP technology in Asia Pacific will be primarily driven by rising spending on HAP-based surveillance systems in countries such as India, China, South Korea, and other Southeast Asian countries.