Non-terrestrial networks (NTNs) are crucial for operating in challenging environments. They include use of satellites, high altitude platforms (HAPs), low altitude drones and tethered platforms. A key aspect is that they need to often work together and with other terrestrial infrastructure to provide seamless connectivity.

Satellites have been available for decades, providing global coverage, especially from geostationary satellites, but it is only now with the low-earth orbit constellations, such as One-Web and Starlink, that they have the coverage and capacity available to support a large market needed for them to compete with other infrastructures.

HAPs are aircraft or airships situated in the stratosphere (from 17 to 22 km above the ground) and can be used for the delivery of wireless communications and other applications. HAPs have the potential capability to serve a large number of users, either in dense urban areas or over a wide geographical area. They can be brought in temporarily for disaster relief or temporary coverage of entertainment events. Alternatively, as part of clusters they can become a part of permanent feature in the communications infrastructure.

Low altitude drones and tethered platforms have the potential to deliver short-term communications rapidly, especially for temporary events and post-disaster. We have Helikite tethered platform systems that we used to test out technologies, based on software defined radio based systems.

We have been applying wireless communications to NTNs and HAPs in particular since 1999, coordinating or being partners in numerous collaborative academic and industrial projects, worth around £4M. We have a strong history of experimental trials of technology, including development and test of payloads in the stratosphere, and via our Helikite systems. We are keen to develop innovative approaches for future NTNs working with industry and other stakeholders.

We are now home to the interdisciplinary Centre for High Altitude Platform Applications, which is pioneering technologies for wireless communications, environmental monitoring and atmospheric science applications.

York's Helikite USRP Testbed now features as a National Instrument's Case Study.

Contact us

Professor David Grace
Chair of IEEE Technical Committee on Cognitive Networks and founder member of IEEE Technical Committee on Green Communications.
+44 (0)1904 322396

  • Helikite Delivering Wireless Services From the Sky With USRP and LabVIEW Communications
  • FP7 Aerial Base Stations with Opportunistic Links for Unexpected and Temporary Events (ABSOLUTE)
  • MULTISCAN: Multi-beam Scanning Antenna for Satellite Communications
  • COST 297 High Altitude Platforms for Communications and Other Services
  • CAPANINA: Communications from Aerial Platform Networks delivering 'Broadband for All'
  • Handoff for High Altitude Platform based Broadband Networks
  • Cognitive Radio based Gigabit Communication Links from High Altitude Platforms
  • Cognitive Routing for Tactical Ad Hoc Networks
  • Robust Cognitive Radio Based Bandwidth Assignment for Heterogeneous Wireless Networks
  • Coexistence of Heterogeneous Cognitive Radio Systems

Previous or current non-academic collaborators include:

  • Advanten
  • Allsopp’s Helikites
  • BT
  • Carlo Gavazzi Space
  • Dstl
  • ETRI and KARI in Korea
  • ESA
  • German Aerospace Centre (DLR)
  • Thales Communications and Security
  • NASA
  • National Instruments
  • NICT in Japan
  • Ofcom
  • Orange
  • QinetiQ
  • Satellite Applications Catapult
  • Triagnosys GmbH
  • ViaLight GmbH
  • Wireless communications delivered via networks of high altitude platforms (HAPs), Helikites, drones and other aerial platforms, including integration into heterogeneous wireless networks, especially for underserved users and to serve the public good
  • Low earth orbit mega constellations and lunar/interplanetary connectivity, space weather monitoring (growth areas)
  • Constellations of HAPs, use of free space optical and mm-wave constellations, cloud RAN, hybrid networking, disaggregation and use of AI
  • Real-time, secure, aerial monitoring/observation of assets, including development of sensors for overflights in hazardous environments, eg Chernobyl and Fukishima
  • methane detection from oil and gas industry
  • Integration of sensor technologies, including hyperspectral imaging
  • Support for communications and monitoring in post-disaster situations
  • Exploitation of Helikite SDR testbed and state-of-the-art experimental facilities.
  • BAE Systems
  • Auriga Aerospace
  • Airbus
  • Elson Space Engineering
  • Stratospheric Platforms Ltd
  • Sceye
  • Softbank/HAPS Mobile
  • FIRMA Engineering

Contact us

Professor David Grace
Chair of IEEE Technical Committee on Cognitive Networks and founder member of IEEE Technical Committee on Green Communications.
+44 (0)1904 322396