A Japanese telecommunications giant and a California-based drone builder intend to start a drone-delivered internet service by 2023. The two companies, Softbank and AeroVironment, say they\u2019ve assembled the first one already, according to\u00a0materials (pdf) on SoftBank\u2019s website in April.\nThe HAWK30 drone has a wingspan of 260 feet and is powered by solar panels mounted on the wings that drive 10 electric motors. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will fly in the stratosphere at 65,000 feet above sea level (12 miles), AeroVironment says in a press release. That\u2019s around twice the altitude that many passenger planes fly at.\nSoftbank calls it a \u201cfloating base station in the stratosphere.\u201d\n\nBenefits of using the stratosphere: wider more reliable coverage\nWhy the stratosphere? Well, one reason is that lower altitudes often have strong winds to deal with, including straight after storms. The companies say disaster communications could be a primary use case for the drones, and the stratosphere has a steady current.\nAlso, because of the altitude, LTE and 5G coverage could be much more widespread than any alternative delivery mechanism implemented at a lower altitude. One High Altitude PlatformStation (HAPS), as the HAWK30\u2019s genre of base stations are called, could provide service over about 125 miles in diameter, and about 40 HAPS could cover the entire Japanese archipelago.\u00a0Whereas a set of older, tethered balloons (SoftBank developed one in 2011) might cover just six miles, SoftBank says.\nOthers are aiming for the stratosphere, too. Newer balloons, such as Alphabet\u2019s Loon, using tennis court-sized balloons also fly there.\nSoftbank is a major provider of telecommunications in Japan, a country on the Pacific rim and prone to earthquakes. It is thus keen to find backup alternatives to wired, or even radio-based, ground assets that can get destroyed in natural disasters. Softbank wants to use satellite backhaul internet links, envisaged by OneWeb, to provide connectivity. That upcoming constellation will operate in low earth orbit (LEO) in the exosphere at around 745 miles up.\nImproved mobile network connectivity\nAlready a provider of mobile network service, SoftBank is eager to integrate its HAPS augmented service, into its customer experience.\n\u201cSmooth handovers between networks provided by terrestrial base stations and by HAWK30 will also be possible,\u201d SoftBank says. \u201cAs a result, communication disruption will not occur even when a person using a smartphone moves from a base station covered area to a HAWK30 covered area.\u201d\nIn other words, even in a disaster, the customer, which will include internet of things (IoT) enterprise customers, won\u2019t experience a relationship-jeopardizing service failure with the mobile network operator (MNO).\n\u201cHAPSMobile will support telecom standards for IoT to accommodate various IoT solutions,\u201d HAPSMobile, the SoftBank entity running the infrastructure says on its website.\nHedging, SoftBank has formed a \u201ca long-term strategic relationship to advance the use of high altitude vehicles\u201d with the aforementioned Alphabet\u2019s Loon. SoftBank, through HAPSMobile, will invest $125 million in the more-progressed balloon-based Loon.\nLoon has been doing well. A South America Loon flight was aloft for 98 days in 2016, the company claims on its website. Also, Loon provided connectivity in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and in Peru after an earthquake this year, where the company was apparently coincidentally there testing balloons with MNO Telef\u00f3nica, according to an IEEE report.\nIt\u2019s not all about disasters, though, drones could well end up being cheaper than building-out ground infrastructure for remote areas that still require internet coverage, says Tim Farrar, president of TMF Associates, in a recent\u00a0Los Angeles Times article.