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Company tests high-altitude airship over New Mexico desert | Tech News

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN – Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — A technology company that wants to bring broadband to more remote areas and monitor methane and other emissions from the oil and gas industry launched one of its airships from the desert on Tuesday. New Mexico in a key test on the way to business operations.

Sceye Inc. is developing a high-altitude platform station that company officials hope will provide an alternative to satellites and planes for improving internet connectivity and collecting data on everything from industrial pollution to forest fire threats.

It took the unmanned helium-filled station a few hours to reach the stratosphere. He will maintain his position there for 24 hours, a significant step that will bring Sceye closer to commercial operations over the next 18 to 24 months.

Founder and CEO Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsenand said his team will aim for greater longevity with subsequent flights from their home base in Roswell.

“Each flight is a big deal, but each flight is just another step in an iterative learning process,” he said in a virtual interview from the Sceye hangar where the workers were busy. prepare the huge airship for flight.

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Vestergaard Frandsenand said it took about eight months to build a station, which consists of sleek reflective fabric designed to operate in the stratosphere 65,000 feet (19.8 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface. .

Several years ago, NASA proposed a challenge that called for designs capable of flying higher and longer than existing airships, with scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California saying observations at that altitude could provide greater clarity. At the time, no airship could maintain an altitude in the stratosphere for more than eight hours.

Capable of lifting heavy payloads, Sceye’s airship runs on solar panels and an array of lithium-sulfur batteries.

“Whether we hit our target with this flight or achieve something that falls short of the target, we’re going to learn a lot,” he said.

The New Mexico Department of Economic Development pledged up to $5 million in funding when Sceye announced he would move to the state. The company has operations in Roswell and Moriarty, a small community near Albuquerque.

Sceye last year partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and regulators in New Mexico to study air pollution and climate change over the next few years.

The state has also been exploring accelerated formats to expand high-speed internet, and state officials said Sceye could play a role in that effort through a separate multimillion-dollar contract.

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