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18 T he advent of 5G technologies stands to herald an array of intelligent, analytical and autonomous systems to make life easier for businesses and individuals. However, telecoms providers have historically had issues with providing such cellular broadband services to all users. In most nations, part of the population typically lives in mountainous or remote regions, which has presented major challenges to supplying even 4G. In fact, half the world’s population – 4 billion people – still have no access to the internet. Given the quality-of-life improvements these people would miss out on without this connectivity, an alternative to traditional telecoms infrastructure is needed. To that end, Stratospheric Platforms is developing its High Altitude Platform (HAP) UAV to provide a persistent 3G/4G/5G comms network through ‘towers in the sky’ for remote users, as well as the emergency and other services. Every HAPS (high altitude pseudosatellite) or HALE (high altitude, long endurance) UAV project featured in this magazine down the years has brought numerous cutting-edge technologies into the mainstream, including thin-film solar panels, ultra-thin carbon composite plies, and laser comms. Those from Stratospheric Platforms are no different, its choices including a liquid hydrogen powertrain and a unique phased-array antenna payload. Leading their development is Kevin Bean, who holds the positions of vice-president of operations and vice- president technical at the company. We spoke with him about the technologies being developed as part of the HAP project, as well as the key experiences in his life that make his expertise indispensable to Stratospheric Platforms’ offering. “My bachelor’s degree was actually in computer science, which in and of itself wasn’t relevant to UAVs at all,” he says. “Looking back, I suppose I grew into unmanned vehicles over time, and that began when I joined Thales the year after finishing my degree.” While he has been sworn to secrecy regarding much of his work at Thales, he does say he effectively started with software engineering for radar systems, a role he performed for 5-10 years, before progressing into working on overall system projects. It so happened that this move fast- tracked him into unmanned vehicles, where he cut his teeth on various aspects of the Thales Watchkeeper WK450 UAV programme. “That was really when I stopped being a software engineer and became a systems engineer, with a lot of learning and work going into the hardware and mechanics of Watchkeeper. It was my experiences with that high-end, defence-grade UAV that led to me becoming VP technical with Stratospheric Platforms’ vice-president of operations tells Rory Jackson about the company’s project to deliver 5G connectivity to remote regions around the world Remote access February/March 2022 | Unmanned Systems Technology Kevin Bean leads the technical development of Stratospheric Platforms’ High Altitude Platform (HAP) UAV (Courtesy of Stratospheric Platforms)