India’s National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) Achieves Milestone in Testing Solar-Powered High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS)

India’s National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) Achieves Milestone in Testing Solar-Powered High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS)

The National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in Bengaluru has achieved a significant milestone by conducting the first successful test flight of a solar-powered “pseudo satellite,” a type of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). This technology has the potential to enhance India’s surveillance and monitoring capabilities in border areas.

Features and Advantages of HAPS

  • Altitude and Endurance: HAPS can fly at altitudes of 18-20 km, nearly double the heights reached by commercial airplanes, and can stay airborne for months or even years, thanks to its solar power generation capabilities.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Unlike traditional satellites that require rockets for deployment, operating HAPS is significantly cheaper, making it a cost-effective alternative for surveillance and monitoring tasks.

Test Flight and Development Progress

  • Successful Test: The test flight of a scaled-down prototype weighing 23 kg with a wingspan of 12 meters was conducted in the Challakere testing range in Karnataka. The prototype achieved an altitude of about 3 km and remained airborne for approximately eight and a half hours.
  • Development Milestones: While the successful test flight is a crucial milestone, further tests are required before HAPS can be industrially produced. The next step involves achieving a 24-hour flight to test the complete power generation sequence involving solar cells and batteries.

Applications and Future Deployments

  • Surveillance and Monitoring: HAPS addresses the need for continuous surveillance of border areas, especially in the aftermath of events like the Doklam standoff in 2017.
  • Disaster Response and Communication: In addition to surveillance, HAPS can be deployed for disaster management and providing mobile communication networks in remote areas, complementing traditional satellite functions.

Global Context and Collaborations

  • International Developments: The development of HAPS is not unique to India, with other countries like China, South Korea, and the UK also exploring this technology.
  • Private Initiatives: Besides government-led projects, private companies are also involved in developing HAPS technology.

Conclusion and Future Plans

  • Technology Development: NAL’s role is primarily in technology development and prototyping, with actual manufacturing likely to involve industry partnerships.
  • Deployment Targets: The aim is to deploy HAPS for various applications, including border surveillance and disaster response, by 2027.

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs):

  1. What does HAPS stand for?
    • A) High-Altitude Positioning System
    • B) High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite
    • C) High-Altitude Proximity System
    • D) High-Altitude Patrol Surveillance
    Answer: B) High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite
  2. What is a significant advantage of HAPS compared to traditional satellites?
    • A) Ability to achieve higher altitudes
    • B) Longer duration of flight
    • C) Lower deployment cost
    • D) All of the above
    Answer: D) All of the above
  3. Where was the first successful test flight of HAPS conducted?
    • A) Bengaluru
    • B) Challakere testing range
    • C) Chitradurga district
    • D) Karnataka
    Answer: B) Challakere testing range
  4. What is the next development milestone for HAPS after the successful test flight?
    • A) Increasing the wingspan
    • B) Achieving a 24-hour flight
    • C) Enhancing battery capacity
    • D) Integrating radar systems
    Answer: B) Achieving a 24-hour flight
  5. Apart from border surveillance, what other application is mentioned for HAPS?
    • A) Agricultural monitoring
    • B) Disaster response
    • C) Wildlife conservation
    • D) Oceanographic research
    Answer: B) Disaster response