A consortium of Japanese organizations has succeeded in jointly developing a radio electric-transmission system using microwaves that will supply the power to drive an airship in a new communications system that uses an airship in place of a satellite. The consortium, which includes Kobe University and the Communications Research Laboratory of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, plans to carry out a trial flight of an airship using electricity generated by this system in the fall.
If this new electric-transmission system can be put into practical use, it will be possible to float an airship at high altitudes for long periods of time. The researchers believe the airship can be utilized as an inexpensive communications satellite and for such purposes as observation of the ozone layer for preservation of the global environment.
The newly developed electric-transmission system works by sending concentrated microwaves from a parabola antenna, measuring about three meters in diameter, that are received by an antenna attached to the airship. The transmission antenna is equipped with a homing device, so that the microwaves can reach their target even if the airship is blown about in the wind.
Normal antennas can receive the full range of radio wave patterns, including microwaves, however, they have a limited ability to absorb the electric power that constitutes radio waves. Therefore, the consortium has developed a special reception antenna that can harness the electric power of radio waves and that uses special light materials so that it can be attached to an airship.
In the field of radio power transmission, Canada succeeded in conducting an experiment involving the flight of a small model aircraft in 1987, but otherwise there have been few reports of full-scale trial flights involving airships.
(The above article, edited by Japan Echo Inc., is based on domestic Japanese news sources. It is offered for reference purposes and does not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.)