SoftBank Corp. subsidiary HAPSMobile reportedly targeted a sevenfold reduction in the cost of operating high-altitude unmanned aircraft as part of efforts to boost delivery of affordable connectivity services in emerging markets.

HAPSMobile’s president and CEO Junichi Miyakawa told Nikkei Asia the company targeted pricing of $1 per month for users in unconnected areas. But to achieve this, it aims to cut the cost of aircraft development from approximately JPY700 million ($6.8 million) to JPY100 million, with a goal of commencing mass production in 2027.

Options being explored include replacing solar panels fitted to its aircraft with more affordable silicon-based units.

Nikkei Asia noted HAPSMobile aimed to launch commercial services by early 2024, with tests of its aircraft in SoftBank’s home market, Japan, to be conducted by the end of this year as it moves to use the system as a substitute for ground-based systems during emergencies and natural disasters.

HAPSMobile was launched in 2017 with the goal of providing mobile coverage to remote areas and disaster sites. In 2020, the business conducted a joint trial of LTE connectivity with Alphabet’s Loon.