Solar electric hybrid airship UAV development advances


Global Near Space Services (GNSS) of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Bye Aerospace of Denver, Colo., jointly announced continued progress in the development of a unique solar-electric-powered airship named StarLightTM.  Engineers project this cost-effective, unmanned high altitude airship will remain on-station in the stratosphere for a minimum of four months at a time.  It will have an unprecedented capability to provide affordable persistent wide-area sensing and communications for both commercial and government purposes. Phase 1 and Phase 2 of development of the stratospheric airship was conducted under the supervision of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Aircraft Division.

Ron Oholendt, President of GNSS, said the joint GNSS-Bye Aerospace engineering team approach is unique.  "The program leverages proven, commercially developed and environmentally friendly technologies that are going to produce high altitude flight durations measured in months instead of hours," Oholendt said.  "A thorough analysis shows that flying hour costs will be less than one-tenth the cost of current high altitude aircraft and UAVs."  

GNSS and Bye Aerospace plan subscale flight demonstrations to illustrate the efficiency of solar electric power technology, vehicle performance and control at high altitude.  The all solar-powered "StarLightTM" high altitude, long endurance UAV system will carry advanced technology wide area sensors and communication systems to altitudes surpassed only by ultra-high altitude free-floating balloons and rockets that launch satellites into space.  Preliminary design of the uniquely shaped airship upper stage is complete.  The sub-scale lower stage has completed a critical design review and the subsystems have been assembled and tested.  

The lower stage solar electric hybrid vehicle engineered by Bye Aerospace provides vehicle control and propulsion for non-tethered station keeping. "This new LTA (lighter than air) UAV category is made possible by advancements in lightweight efficient flexible thin film solar energy collection, electric propulsion technology and lightweight composite structures," said George Bye, CEO of Bye Aerospace. "In combination with very high altitude LTA and advanced aerodynamics, extreme persistence is possible. GNSS and Bye Aerospace pride themselves on being innovators and look forward to the challenge of delivering this entirely new cost-effective, long endurance UAV."

StarLightTM is designed to help commercial, state and federal customers obtain satellite-like telecommunications and high altitude surveillance capabilities for a fraction of the cost of space-based systems.  StarLightTM features a unique combination of an LTA envelope and an autonomous fly-down solar electric aerospace vehicle that safely protects and returns the payload.  Briefings are being held with potential company industry partners and U.S. Defense and commercial customers. During Phase 3 of the development program, the solar electric UAV lower stage prototype vehicle assembly will be completed and the lower stage vehicle will be prepared for flight.

Potential military applications include border patrol, visual and thermal reconnaissance and forward air control. In addition, potential civil applications include traffic control, pipeline and power line inspection, aerial law enforcement, forest fire detection and aerial photography.

About Global Near Space Systems

Global Near Space Services (GNSS) is a privately held corporation headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., whose flagship products focus on Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) unmanned aerospace systems. GNSS operates in conjunction with its parent company, Near Space Systems, Inc., in development of these LTA platforms with missions to provide wide-area communications, broadband, and sensing devices to meet the high demands of military and commercial customers for network connectivity and ready access to vital information. For more information go to 


Bye Aerospace provides a broad range of aerospace engineering support services through its subsidiary, Bye Engineering Partners. The company is collaborating with GNSS to support the design and development of alternative energy concept airships. Bye Aerospace is located at Centennial Airport near Denver, Colo. For more information, go to or