1st Oct 2019
NATO’s New Helikites Could
Revolutionise Unmanned Warfare
1st Oct 2019
New Helikite airborne platforms have proven they can increase the operational coverage area of
unmanned surface vehicles (USV’s) by over ten times. With this last over-the-horizon
communications hurdle overcome, USV’s can now become highly effective, independent naval
forces, able to patrol the oceans and protect shipping, with or without manned naval support
ships in the area.
NATO REPMUS19 Unmanned Naval Exercise
During this September 2019 exercise Portugal, compact, all-weather Helikites flew constantly to
high altitudes, whilst lifting MANET radios to allow streaming video and broadband comms 53Km
out to sea. During the exercise, the USV’s were able to be monitored and controlled in the ops
room via the constant video stream. The USV’s successfully intercepted a manned vessel
simulating an attack on a US frigate. Helikites also provided real-time video feed from a Puma
UAV down to Portuguese marines storming a beach and simulating an attack on an enemy
building. The Helikites were able to accommodate various radios and antennas with no
problems. Rapid changes of radio equipment and antennas were easily enabled. The Helikites
constantly flew up to 450ft in winds from nil to 35 mph on the exposed ‘Coast of Gales’ at Troia,
Portugal, with no problems. Far higher altitudes were possible but not required.
Worldwide, the deployment of all types of unmanned systems have been delayed for decades by
a lack of reliable over-the-horizon radio relay. All other forms of airborne platform, such as
UAV’s, satellites, balloons or parafoil kites have failed to give the necessary communications
capability because they were not persistent enough, were unreliable, or too expensive. In stark
contrast, Helikites have proved themselves to be superb radio relay platforms, capable of
autonomously flying themselves from land, ships, small boats and USV’s in all weathers with
Conflict areas such as the Arabian Gulf, Black Sea and South China Sea can now be controlled
using unmanned maritime vessels operated via high altitude Helikites flying indefinitely for
minimal cost. These unmanned vessels can be transported to the area by aircraft, enabling a
powerful naval force to be deployed to a conflict zone within hours instead of the weeks it takes
at present for manned ships to arrive.
There will be no risk to sailors from anti ship missiles because the constant video streaming from
long ranges from the high altitude Helikites, allows the unmanned vessels to be piloted safely
from secret shore bases. Unmanned vessels can operate on the surface, or underwater, for many
weeks without re-fuelling. They are exceedingly hard to detect and uneconomical to destroy with
expensive missiles or manned ships. This development immediately enables massive force
multiplication for minimal cost. It may force significant changes in future naval hardware,
manpower and tactics.
ALLSOPP HELIKITES LIMITED
About Allsopp Helikites Limited
Allsopp Helikites Ltd is a designer and manufacturer of unique, lighter-than-air, miniature, all-weather aerostat systems. The company delivers a fully integrated service and has the largest range of aerostats in the world. Products include Helikite aerostats, training packages, tactical launch trailers, Helibases, Helikite winches, video surveillance cameras, aerial photographic equipment, radio-relay
systems, balloon cut-down devices and helium.
Allsopp Helikites Ltd is a privately owned SME in England.
For further information or photographic images please contact:
Sandy Allsopp, Allsopp Helikites Ltd
Website: Tel: +44 (0)1725 517877 E-mail:
Allsopp Helikites Ltd. Tel: +44 (0)1425 654967 Website:
Helikites flying at 450ft at
Helikite night launch at
EE’s Helikite Balloon Delivered 4G Data
to a Rural Sporting event
Thuy Ong Oct 11, 2017
The world’s first commercial Helikite “air mast” took flight over the weekend, providing 4G coverage for hundreds of users in rural Wales. EE’s Helikite air mast is designed to provide temporary data coverage for remote but densely populated events like music festivals, and for emergencies when the availability of distributed communications can mean the difference between life and death. EE’s approach is similar to Alphabet’s Project Loon, which recently received FCC approval to deliver LTE signal via balloon to Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
UK mobile network EE flew its Helikite 300 feet above a Red Bull mountain biking event in Machynlleth, on the edge of Snowdonia National Park. The Helikite was used to boost 4G coverage and capacity for the event, which connected over 200 bike riders along with hundreds of spectators. Download speeds reached a top of 175 Mbps, and an upload speed of up to 45 Mbps at the site (higher than the test-speed image), an EE spokesperson confirmed to The Verge by phone. The balloon can be completely inflated and launched within 50 minutes and can stay airborne for weeks at a time.
‘Pre-5G’ Backhaul Powers Inflatable EE 4G Air Masts For Disaster Zones And Rural Areas
Silicon.co.uk, June 13, 2017
‘Pre-5G’ Backhaul Powers Inflatable EE 4G Air Masts For Disaster Zones And Rural Areas by Steve McCaskill
EE makes use of 5G backhaul for inflatable ‘helikite’ that will aid emergency services and spread rural 4G
EE is using pre-5G powered backhaul to power an inflatable air mast called ‘a Helikite’ to deliver 4G connectivity to areas affected by bad weather, natural disasters or poor general connectivity.
The Helikite is a helium balloon equipped with mini mobile antennas linked to a ‘network in a box’ on the ground via 26GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum.
This allows for high capacity and low latency, enabling applications like push to talk and providing real world speeds of 65Mbps (although this could increase with different backhaul.)
The use of Helikite will help provide emergency services with coverage in areas hit by disaster and because it is a ‘meshed’ technology, several air masts can be linked together, spreading coverage.
“Our mission is to provide 4G to the UK,” said EE CEO Marc Allera at BT’s Innovation Day at Adastral Park in Suffolk. “But one of the [big] challenges is remote rural areas and [the need to] provide back up to the ESN.”
“We want to be where customers need us most,” added Massor Hanif. “It can be set up quickly and provide wide area coverage.”
The Helikite could eventually be equipped so it is multi-operator, allowing customers from O2, Vodafone and Three to retain coverage in a disaster.
“Our mission is not just to save our own customers but many others,” added Hassan. “We believe it’s the first time in Europe that anyone is showing pre 5G-tech for this purpose.”
Vodafone, through its charitable Foundation, has provided network in a backpack and network in a box technology to parts of the world hit by disasters, such as the earthquake in Nepal in what year.
Supporters of 5G say that although the new standard will allow for speeds of 1Gbps, this is not the main selling point. Other features include high capacity, low latency and the ability to ‘slice’ certain parts of the network into virtual networks that guarantee performance.
Such frequencies will be a key characteristic of 5G, which is set to be standardised next year, but the use of pre-5G technology is a Europe first, the network claims.
Financial Post February 21, 2017
EE drone balloons to boost UK’s 4G coverage Helikites will boost data capacity in rural areas and for big events like Glastonbury Read next fast
Telecoms Correspondent EE is to develop a fleet of “helikite” drones over the next three years to fill in wireless coverage holes when its 4G network goes down or needs more capacity.
The mobile operator, which is owned by BT, has been developing the drones to cover rural areas, where it has been difficult to build traditional mobile network infrastructure. It expects to launch its first drone this year to coincide with a festival such as Glastonbury or a sporting event that draws thousands of fans to a remote location that overloads the local network.
Marc Allera, chief executive of EE, said the balloons — which hover at 150 feet and can provide coverage over a 4km wide area — could be deployed in scale within three years, although there were still stumbling blocks to overcome.
He said more talks were needed with aviation authorities to ensure the drones were not deployed in restricted air space. That is a particular problem in urban areas but less so in rural areas. Mr Allera said the company had already established potential “drone ways” around remote Scottish islands where they would not disrupt aircraft. It has already tested the balloons, which rely on a satellite signal provided by Avanti, over Salisbury Plain.
EE expected the aerostat helikites would be used for areas that needed an urgent capacity boost. That could include times when a network had been damaged by thieves or a natural disaster such as a flood or during a busy event when data demand increased for a short period. The mobile network also unveiled smaller drones that could be deployed very quickly to provide 4G connectivity over a limited area for an hour that would be more appropriate for emergencies.
Read more UK sets timetable for launch of 5G networks Early trials set to take place as soon as next year The “air mast” solution, which EE is in the process of patenting, could also be used for search and rescue missions.
The network originally planned for the drones to provide permanent coverage in rural areas using the balloons but Mr Allera said that could be a decade away due to the regulatory challenges. Another use of the technology could be to hire out the drones to individuals that want capacity in remote areas, such as people filming themselves climbing Ben Nevis.
EE expected its 4G network would reach 92 per cent of Britain’s landmass by the end of this year. It is pushing to expand further, partly due to the need to cover the entire country as part of its Emergency Services Network contract to supply communications to the police, fire and ambulance services. A spokesman said the helikites would not initially be used for the ESN. The company has developed a fleet of 32 “rapid response” trucks with large masts to boost coverage in rural areas for the emergency services in cases of network failure. Those trucks have been built by BT, which has a sideline in servicing vehicles.
The prospect of drones floating off remote areas of Britain could lead to complaints, given telecoms companies often face local opposition to installing telecoms infrastructure. Scottish Mountaineering objected to a mast being installed in Glen Etive in rural Scotland, as part of the ESN. Mr Allera said the balloons could provide those communities with an alternative to the big masts. EE refused to rule out daubing the balloons with advertising such as its own brand. Such a move would mimic the Goodyear Blimp but could antagonise people in the countryside.
BBC February 21, 2017
Mobile phone provider EE has demonstrated helium balloons and drones that could provide 4G mobile coverage following damage to existing infrastructure.
The devices are fitted with small mobile sites that include a base station and an antenna.
They could also be used to connect remote parts of the UK where coverage is thin.
EE said it planned to deploy such a network in a UK rural area this year.
The drones can stay airborne for up to an hour at a time and the "helikite" balloons for several weeks as they have a tethered power source.
The drone was designed to give short-term targeted coverage to aid search and rescue situations, EE said.
"Innovation is essential for us to go further than we've ever gone, and deliver a network that's more reliable than ever before," said EE chief executive Marc Allera.
"Rural parts of the UK provide more challenges to mobile coverage than anywhere else, so we have to work harder there - developing these technologies will ultimately help our customers, even in the most hard to reach areas."
It was the first time this had been tried out in the UK, said Kester Mann, analyst at CCS Insight.
"Everyone immediately thinks of disruptive players like Facebook and Google when it come to things like balloon-based networks. The traditional networks need to step up so they don't get left behind," he told the BBC.
Google is developing a network of huge balloons to provide connectivity to rural areas around the world, known as Project Loon.
Last month the tech giant confirmed it had closed its internet drone project, Titan, which was designed to bring the internet to remote rural areas.
Facebook's Project Aquila involves building solar-powered aircraft which will fly for months at a time above remote places, beaming down an internet connection.