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CSIR-NAL unveils High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS)

Mains level : Not Much



  • The National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in Bengaluru, India, recently conducted the inaugural test flight of a solar-powered High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) vehicle, marking a significant stride in indigenous HAPS technology.
  • India now joins a select group of nations, including China, South Korea, and the UK, pioneering the development of HAPS for diverse applications.

Test Flight Details of India’s HAPS

  • Prototype Description: NAL’s test featured a small-scale HAPS weighing 23 kilograms, boasting a wingspan of 12 meters.
  • Location: Engineers conducted the successful trial at the Challakere testing facilities in Karnataka state, soaring to an altitude of approximately 3 kilometers and sustaining flight for 8.5 hours.
  • Progress: Despite its scaled-down size, the prototype’s performance exceeded expectations, paving the way for future full-scale models.

HAPS Technology Overview

  • Definition: HAPS represents a class of solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that operate autonomously in the stratosphere.
  • Features: These aircraft incorporate solar cells and batteries, enabling extended flights resembling satellite persistence without the need for costly rocket launches.

Capabilities and Applications

  • Altitude and Endurance: HAPS can autonomously operate at altitudes of 18-20 kilometers for months or even years, offering persistent aerial monitoring and surveillance capabilities.
  • Strategic Uses: These platforms hold potential for applications such as border surveillance, disaster response, and communication network restoration.

Future Development Goals

  • Milestone Objectives: NAL aims to achieve continuous flight for 24 hours in upcoming trials, further validating the aircraft’s energy storage and solar recharging capabilities.
  • Operational Deployment: India anticipates deploying refined HAPS technology for practical defense by 2027 purposes, particularly in border monitoring.

Benefits and Challenges

  • Cost benefits: HAPS operate closer to Earth than satellites and do not require expensive rocket launches for deployment.
  • Flight Duration: Advanced HAPS can remain airborne for months or years with solar cell-powered battery recharging.
  • Advantages: HAPS offer advantages over traditional satellites, including lower deployment costs, modular payloads, and increased flexibility in targeting and redirection.
  • Obstacles: Challenges include navigating minimal stratospheric flight regulations and addressing unpredictable weather conditions at high altitudes.

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