We initially developed the technology targeted at solar PV electricity generation. Doing this involved solving a series of significant problems that led us to methods for the design, construction and deployment of small to large scale modular, buoyant-platform systems.
The first additional platform application beyond PV generation we serendipitously discovered was gravity energy storage. This is very synergistic with intermittent PV generation. Cost effective energy storage is an area in great demand without any clear solution today .
As well as complementing PV generation for the energy market, this also means that small stand alone platforms can supply energy for other platform applications. Such an emerging application is wide area wireless internet communications. The platforms we have evolved can quickly and cheaply provide very cost effective wireless internet communications. Other more conventional broadcast and cellular communications can also easily benefit.
One thing leads to another. The use of winches to store energy by transporting weights from the ground to the platform and 20km altitude also enables the transport of goods, equipment, and ultimately, people from the ground to platforms at 20km and back. This means that communications and observation equipment can be deployed and recovered without bringing platforms down to the ground.
The weights involved with gravity energy storage can get to several hundred tonnes. This leads to another possible application; containerized goods transportation. At various times attempts have been made to revive the use of airships without success. Airships suffer from their fragility. Within the troposphere violent and unexpected weather can destroy airships, either in flight, or more commonly in accidents when near the ground for docking and undocking. However, large stratospheric airships based on the StratoSolar construction method could carry payloads of several hundred tonnes between platforms while remaining permanently in the stratosphere. They would be powered by fuel delivered to the platforms, perhaps augmented with solar energy during the day. Containers would be transported with winches up to a platform, transferred to a docked airship, transported by airship to another platform where the airship docks and the containers are transferred to the platform and lowered with winches to the ground.
Airships would be relatively cheap to buy at around $5M, cheap to operate, and would transport goods at about 100km/h from platforms that can be positioned anywhere. The cost of transportation would be somewhere between ships and aircraft, perhaps similar to trucks, but would be point to point and relatively high speed.
Transportation is currently a long shot for StratoSolar, but indicates how a technology can evolve far from its original source. Many other expected and unexpected StratoSolar platform applications will inevitably evolve.