Platforms Wireless International is to demonstrate its Airborne Relay Communications (ARC) system in March before first deliveries to Brazil.

After tests in an anechoic chamber in San Diego, California, the system will be shipped to Brazil for evaluation by cellular communications company Americel, which has signed a contract for the first ARC system, conditional on a successful in-country demonstration.

Los Angeles-based Platforms, meanwhile, has changed its ARC deployment concept, switching from fixed-wing aircraft to tethered aerostats to carry the communications relay payload. The company says this will reduce operating costs by 40%.

Platforms has teamed with an unidentified airship manufacturer to design a family of unmanned, helium-filled tethered aerostats dubbed ZeroGravity Aero-Structures - they would operate at 15,000-25,000ft (4,500m-7,600m) for 30-60 days between dockings for scheduled maintenance.

The company believes tethered aerostats should be able to provide 80-90% availability, being removed from service only in the most severe weather (winds above 80kt [150km/h]), when they could be replaced by fixed-wing aircraft.

Platforms is offering a number of levels of ARC. The Pyxis system is a single aerostat with no fixed-wing support, which offers a 60km- (32nm-) diameter service area with capacity for 50,000-75,000 subscribers.

The Columbia system is a larger aerostat available with or without fixed-wing support. The service area is 220km in diameter and the system has capacity for 85,000-300,000 subscribers. The Quasar system comprises five Columbia aerostats and provides a 1,100km-diameter service area for 425,000-1.5million subscribers.

Source: Flight International