ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – A major milestone occurred on Tuesday over southern New Mexico. A tech company launched one of its airships with the goal of one day boosting broadband access to more rural areas, monitoring pollution, and even reducing the threat of wildfires.

Swiss tech company Sceye Inc. chose New Mexico as its U.S. base for stratospheric flights for earth observation and communication. On Tuesday, the company put their work to the test successfully launching one of its airships from Roswell.

Sceye Inc. is developing a high-altitude platform station that they hope will provide another option besides satellites and airplanes when it comes to boosting internet connectivity especially in more rural areas. “This particular time, they were able to broadcast signals back, back and forth and download and upload to specific targets, within the area, to a vehicle understanding targets,” explains Mark Roper with the New Mexico Economic Development Department. 

It took a couple of hours for the unmanned helium-filled station to reach 65,000 feet above the earth’s surface. It will stay in position for 24 hours and brings the company closer to commercial operations over the next 18 to 24 months.

“Once it proves out, we’ll be able to provide 5G technology to any spot in the state,” Roper said. “Now, things that are limited because you don’t have access to broadband, no longer a detriment, or deterrent to developing business and industry in these remote places.”

The state’s economic development department put up 5-million dollars in funding and says expanding internet access will give more new mexicans employment opportunities. “Beyond the broadband improvements that are made to our broadband infrastructure will also create quality jobs in the manufacturing sector, which will provide positive economic benefits to New Mexico,” Roper said.

Sceye also partnered with the EPA and New Mexico regulators to study air pollution and climate change over the coming years which could include detecting wildfire threats. The company’s CEO says it takes about eight months to build one station and the airship runs on solar panels and lithium-sulfur batteries. The company has operations in Roswell and Moriarty.