What would be a fusion between a drone and a satellite is what ESA is planning to develop in order to expand its activities to a new region of the sky.
It will be a type of HAPS: high altitude pseudosatellites.
HAPS are platforms that float or fly at a high altitude (without leaving the atmosphere and staying in the air for weeks and months) but that function as satellites. The best operational altitude of the HAPS is around 20 kilometers, above clouds and currents and about 10 kilometers above commercial airplanes.
From that height, the pseudo-satellites have an observation range of up to 500 kilometers away.
Miniaturized avionics, high performance of solar cells, minimum weight of batteries and wiring, smaller Earth observation sensors are some of the technologies that, given their current development, allow HAPS to come true. As explained by the specialist in future systems Antonio Ciccolella:
In Earth observation, they could offer prolonged high resolution coverage in priority regions, while in navigation and telecommunications, they could reduce blind spots in coverage and combine a large bandwidth with an insignificant signal delay. ESA is studying what is the best way to combine the different fields.