Kylla’s equity investment arm, Kylla Corporate Investments, has taken a major stake in a new player in the emerging field of High-Altitude Platform Station systems (HAPS).
Aratos HAPS, part of the Aratos Group, founded in 2003, is developing a new system that seeks to take the HAPS concept off the drawing board and into the stratosphere, the mostly “empty” layer between the troposphere, where planes fly, and the mesosphere, in which satellites orbit.
In surveillance, monitoring and early warning, we currently have three options – terrestrial structures, aircraft, and satellites. While each serve specific purposes, they all have limitations. Satellites can orbit the earth, but they cannot remain above a specific area for more than a few minutes. Aircraft can overfly an area again and again, but not for long. Terrestrial structures are by definition fixed.
Increasingly, innovators see a fourth option – HAPS – operating in the stratosphere. Potential applications include maritime and land surveillance, environmental monitoring, land border control, telecommunications, emergency and public safety communications, intelligent transportation systems and smart farming.
None of this is new – HAPS has already been proposed as a way to extend broadband internet around the world – but the Aratos HAPS team believe they have identified a business case that will succeed where those earlier innovations flopped.
The key difference is Aratos HAPS’ focus on developing a multipurpose ecosystem rather than a single purpose platform for, say, broadband internet. The Aratos HAPS concept comprises four components: a reusable high-altitude platform, swappable payloads (monitors, cameras, or scanners), custom software and a terrestrial base station from which to operate the drone and collect data.
“Our HAPS concept is about meeting needs we can’t meet today,” says Peter Tjia, CEO of Aratos HAPS. “It is a reconfigurable dual-purpose solution. Civilian applications include pipeline monitoring in remote regions, crop monitoring, farmland diagnostics, measuring the capability of forests to absorb CO2, monitoring fishing stocks and water quality, and powerline monitoring. Defence applications could be homeland security, border security, et cetera. So, we can improve the way we farm, for example, or monitor shipping lanes better, all by collecting data, in real-time, that we cannot collect now.”
Along with taking an equity stake, Kylla will serve as CFO to Aratos HAPS and share its expertise as the start-up seeks to expand its pool of backers. “Our decision to get involved in Aratos HAPS is part of our long-term strategy to grow our private equity portfolio,” explains Dick
van Druten, Kylla’s Managing Partner. “Their goal is to have their maiden flight in 18 months and achieve commercialisation in 36 months, and we look forward to helping them get there.”
Besides Kylla, other backers of Aratos HAPS include other European industries and agencies
The idea is simple: to fly and float reusable platforms – principally drones and balloons – into the stratosphere, from where they send back real-time data about live developments on land and sea. Compared with satellites and aircraft, high-altitude platforms offer a number of potential advantages and differentiators: they can stay aloft for weeks at a time, adapt to cloud coverage dynamically, revisit as often as needed and data can be refreshed in real time. They also do not require costly rocket launches, they can be moved from region to region, and they can be quickly repurposed for different clients and uses.