Masdar Institute — the Abu Dhabi-based university with a focus on alternative energy, sustainability and the environment — has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Thales and the French graduate engineering school MINES ParisTech to develop applications for the Stratobus drone-satellite hybrid airship.
The agreement was signed at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) 2017, held from 16th-19th January at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC) as part of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2017.
Stratobus is being developed by Thales Alenia Space together with French and European partners. Functioning effectively as a hybrid between a drone and a satellite, Stratobus will be positioned at an altitude of about 20km over its theater of operations, in the lower layer of the stratosphere, where the air is sufficiently dense to lift the airship balloon and the winds are low.
With its involvement in the Stratobus project, Masdar Institute aims to advance its role in driving cutting-edge innovation in earth observation technologies to bring sustainable benefits, locally, regionally and globally.
Stratobus will carry equipment to perform surveillance of borders or land or sea sites (video surveillance of offshore platforms, etc.), environmental monitoring (aerosols, pollution, water monitoring, etc.), climate change impacts (desertification process, plantations, aerosols, pollution, water monitoring, etc.) and provide telecommunications services (Internet, 5G). Thales Alenia Space and partners plan to launch the first qualification and certification flight in 2020.
Masdar Institute will work to develop the environmental applications of Stratobus for the UAE. This first six-month phase of the project will focus on defining the needs of the UAE users of Stratobus. In the second phase, Masdar Institute will be tasked with interfacing with the various UAE users to define their environmental application needs, developing the detailed specifications and technical processes, and defining and developing the specific software algorithms to be included in the Stratobus control centers, participating in the overall validation of the missions for the benefit of the UAE users.