Monday, September 6, 2010

India to have 'giant eyes' in the skies

It will be India's eyes in the sky, the ones that from 70,000 feet can keep tabs over the entire Indian subcontinent.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is developing an indigenous unmanned High Altitude Airship (HAA) - a towering Zeppelinlike aircraft - to closely monitor the country's coastline, borders and the Maoist "red corridor", said a scientist associated with the project.

Former Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment Director, Dr M L Sidana, who is overseeing the DST-funded project told Express that the HAA can be used for resource mapping, safeguarding high-value off shore assets and disaster management.

The airship will be powered by solar panels and will have regenerating fuel cells which will make it operational during night also.

"The National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) has been asked to prepare a feasibility study, which has been completed and will be shortly submitted to the DST. Following the approval, a Technology Demonstrator weighing about 50 kg will be built and later we can go for the production of the final version that can carry payloads weighing 2,000 kg," said Sidana.

The HAA will place India in the select club of US, Japan, Korea, UK, Switzerland and Germany.

Sidana said by placing 15 to 20 airships, the entire Indian subcontinent can be under surveillance, as one airship can survey land area of 600 km from a height of 21 km.

The HAA will be placed at a geostationary position and would have capabilities similar to a satellite at fraction of the cost, said Jitendra Singh, an NAL scientist who is part of the project.

"As the airship will be very close to the earth's surface, it can capture and send data quickly compared to other surveillance systems. The HAAs can also be used for antisubmarine warfare and airborne early warning as it can help in ballistic or cruise missile defence with its ability to send images in quick time," said Singh.

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