Kea Atmos

The Kea Atmos is a solar-powered, remotely piloted aircraft that will fly for months at a time. It will operate in the stratosphere carrying payloads to acquire high-resolution imagery. We are currently test flying the Kea Atmos Mk1, a short-duration technology demonstrator with a 12.5 metre wingspan; then in 2025 we'll start building the long flight endurance Kea Atmos Mk2 which will have a wingspan of around 30 metres.

Kea Atmos Mk1

Our First Stratospheric Capable Aircraft

The construction of New Zealand’s first solar-powered, stratospheric aircraft has been completed and flight testing is well underway. The Kea Atmos Mk1 has a wingspan of 12.5 metres and weighs under 40 kilograms. It will fly to around 50,000 feet (15 kilometres) for up to 16 hours. Subsequent versions of the Kea Atmos will be developed to fly at higher altitudes continuously for months at a time.

The maiden flight took place in March 2023, with numerous flight tests being carried out since then, and the first stratospheric flight is targeted for 2024. View the Kea Atmos Mk1 animation.

High Altitude Platform

Continuous Stratospheric Flight

We are developing the Kea Atmos, a state-of-the-art remotely piloted, solar-powered aircraft to collect frequent, high-resolution aerial images.

After takeoff from a short runway, the Kea Atmos will take a few hours to ascend to the stratosphere, where it will continuously operate for months. The stratosphere provides a sweet spot for cost-effective, high-resolution aerial imaging. The Kea Atmos will use sunlight to power up the batteries during the day and carefully optimise its power-use. This will enable continued flight throughout the night during the hours of darkness.

The Kea Atmos is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It is classed as a fixed-wing High Altitude Platform (HAP) and High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) air-borne vehicle. It can also be described as a High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS), High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS), atmospheric satellite or atmosat.

The Aerial Data Gap

Precision Data For Informed Decision-Making

Acquiring high-quality, frequent aerial data to detect changes in our environment is currently costly and difficult to obtain.  Accessing large-scale imaging is only achievable through satellites and manned aircraft, but both come with significant limitations.

Satellites can only provide low to medium resolution images over specific orbits and the operational costs of building, launching and maintaining satellites is astronomical. Crewed aircraft offer high-resolution aerial images; however, they are also expensive to operate and can only achieve sporadic coverage.

The Kea Atmos will operate in a sweet spot for cost-effective, high-resolution aerial imaging in the stratosphere. But we are working on more than just harvesting better data. Kea Aerospace will manage the entire pipeline from data acquisition and storage to analysis and delivery. We will provide improved data intelligence at a cost much lower than is currently available.

The Operational Zone

Innovation At 65,000 Feet

Commercial air traffic typically operates at an altitude between 33,000 and 42,000 feet (10 to 14 kilometres), whereas the Kea Atmos will operate above the weather, high winds and jet stream at 50,000 to 65,000 feet (15 – 20 kilometres).

Satellites typically operate at least 20 times further above the Earth’s surface at 400+ kilometres. Operating at 20 kilometres, the Kea Atmos can take 20+ times better imagery with a similar camera. Furthermore, data transfer to the ground is much more efficient at lower altitudes.


Sustainable, Zero Emission Flight

Businesses, organisations and individuals want to see sustainable, CO2 emission-free technologies emerge. This is not possible for satellites launched into space by rockets. Solar-powered HAP aircraft will significantly reduce the environmental costs, as well as substantively lowering manufacturing, launch and operational costs.

In addition, our Kea Atmos aircraft will also collect valuable atmospheric data to enhance our knowledge and understanding of our weather and climate change.

Stratospheric Payload Applications

Exploration + Connection

Kea Aerospace’s initial focus is on providing high-resolution and frequent aerial imagery, but we'll also be evaluating other payload applications. In particular, the Kea Atmos will also be an excellent high altitude platform for communications and payload testing.

The Kea Atmos has a 10kg payload capability which is greatly extended by the use of onboard systems such as power supply and telemetry options. Thus, this weight would be more comparable to a 100kg payload for space hardware. In addition, since the aircraft is flying 20x closer to the ground, this provides further weight, size and power advantages; for example, in the case of sensor systems payloads.


Aerial Imagery

Access High-Frequency, High-Resolution Multi-Spectral Imagery

Our zero-emission, cost-effective aerial imaging services are designed for customers that want to optimise their resource use, minimise risks, see with improved intelligence and/or are requiring data with a higher degree of accuracy.



Access A Platform Allowing 200+km Radius Coverage Areas For 5G

Our continuous aerial platform will connect customers in isolated areas. Conversely, it can offer additional coverage for events or special use cases; such as disasters, when conventional systems are taken offline.


Payload Testing

High Altitude Testing With Easy To Swap-Out Payload Capabilities

Testing hardware in a cold, low air density, high-altitude, high-UV environment with the ability to easily swap out payloads. We provide more rigorous ways to test payloads in an extreme space-analogue environment.