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With the help of Japan, stratospheric platform airships may lift off in Uzbekistan

Over the last few years both government and industry in Japan have been looking into the commercial viability of developing stratospheric platform stations. A stratospheric platform station is a large unmanned airship placed 20 km above the surface of the earth acting as a relay station for wireless communication. While still just a concept, such technology would have many advantages over land based and satellite systems.

With the help of Japanese government and industry, Uzbekistan may be the first country to manufacture and deploy a stratospheric platform airship.

This article was published in the October, 2009 edition of Business Ascii.

English Translation

In the central Asian country of Uzbekistan plans are under consideration to construct an airship which would be floated in the stratosphere. This would enable wireless telecommunication coverage over large parts of the country. While such a plan seems more like a dream; by combining the resources of Uzbekistan with the technology of Japan that dream could soon become a reality.

A few years ago Japanese companies started work on developing “stratospheric platforms.” Stratospheric platforms are airships stationed in the stratosphere that serve as relay stations for telecommunications. Airships were invented in the 19th century and by the 20th century airships were flying trans-Atlantic routes. Airship technology is a mature technology. Today, in countries such as Japan, America and England research is being undertaken to use airships as the next generation base stations for information and communication technology.

The length of a stratospheric platform airship would have to be 250 meters. One problem is that the facilities required to build such a large airship do not exist in Japan. The largest airship in the world today is the 75-meter “Zeppelin NT.” The scale of facilities required to construct a 250-meter airship would be enormous.

At the Tashkent National Bank College, the Japan International Cooperation Agency has an overseas senior volunteer teaching entrepreneurship. When Mr. Hagiwara Takanobu and his students were looking into the necessity of having a logistics system in Uzbekistan they came up with the idea of making Uzbekistan the center of airship manufacturing.

The inflammable helium gas to fill the airship could be supplied in Uzbekistan. Such a large airship would require a new type of membrane to contain the gas. It is possible to manufacture a membrane composed of a new type of synthetic fiber made of carbon nano tubes and cotton. Uzbekistan is the world’s second largest producer of raw cotton and has plentiful supplies of natural gas.

Uzbekistan has large tracks of unpopulated land. It lies along the same latitude as North-eastern Japan with the same kind of wind current crossing both countries. More importantly, former Soviet aircraft factory technicians are now assembling aircraft for the Russian aircraft manufacture “Ilyushin” in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is home for not only an aircraft industry, but consumer electronic and automobile manufacturing. The people of Uzbekistan have a knack for constructing things.

For some time the Japan International Cooperation Agency has been providing Japanese-language education classes at Tashkent, Bukuhara and the world heritage town of Samarkand. The University at Tashkent has a Japanese language department. It’s surprising how many people in Uzbekistan are capable of speaking Japanese. Japanese technicians would not have to learn Russian and research could be conducted inexpensively.

Kawasaki heavy industries estimates that if two stratospheric platform airships were constructed and put in place over Uzbekistan, the county could have high-speed internet access like WiMAX. While Uzbekistan has ADSL service, dial-up service is mostly used. ADSL service is limited to less than one megabite, so there are virtually no internet users. If the stratospheric platform airship became reality all of Uzbekistan’s internet communication infrastructure problems would be solved.

While plans are still under consideration, Mr. Hagiwara is planning to hold a conference in Tashikent around fall next year about the airship business. He has also started doing research on developing a package that combines a logistics system using a stratospheric platform airship with a new airborne system.

Real Japanese

中央アジアに位置するウズベキスタンで、成層圏に滞在する無線局機能を持つ飛行船を介し、 広範囲の通信を実現する、成層圏プラットフォーム計画が検討されている。この夢のような計画も、日本の技術とウズベキスタンの資源を組み合わせれば、にわかに現実味を帯びてくる。









Japanese Language Points

にわかに現実味を帯びてくる - will soon become reality

こなれた技術 - mature technology

大西洋横断航路 - trans-Atlantic route

経験場 - Literally, “testing station.” In this case a more appropriate translation would be “facilities.”

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