In two years, mobile communication stations will be flying over Japan. A consortium with Japanese mobile operator NTT Docomo and Airbus AALTO has come up with this project, The Register reports.

The consortium, which also includes Space Compass, Mizuho Bank and the Development Bank of Japan, is investing USD 100 million in AALTO through the HAPS JAPAN investment fund.

AALTO is the manufacturer of the Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS), a solar-powered drone designed to operate in the stratosphere, where it will provide mobile communications and Earth observation services.

According to AALTO, the cash injection will allow the company to expand the coverage of mobile operators, reduce gaps in network coverage, and strengthen Japan’s response to natural disasters.

Shigoehiro Hori, one of the co-founders of Space Compass, believes that such networks can solve the problem of access to communication in hard-to-reach areas, which are numerous in Japan due to its mountainous terrain.

Koichiro Matsufuji, another co-chairman of Space Compass, added that the company intends to create a successful example of the technology in Japan and then expand it to Asia.

Commercial HAPS operators – including AALTO and its Zephyr – need certification from major civil aviation authorities in order to use facilities such as airfields. This requires demonstration of airworthiness, safety protocols, and compliance with aviation and communications regulations in each country where they operate.

The technology has been in development for over 20 years. AALTO has come a long way from a flight endurance of about six hours at 9,000 meters to the ability to remain at 20,000 meters for 90 days.