The ministry of defence has signed up a design and development contract with a Bengaluru-based company to develop a High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) which will be able to conduct surveillance operations and support communications by staying airborne for months at a stretch.
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Mentored under the ministry’s Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) initiative, the programme has been supported by the armed forces and will see Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as the lead prototype development partner.
NewSpace Research & Technologies signed the contract with the defence ministry on Thursday, with plans in place to develop the first prototype for tests within the next four years. “Major UAV-related tech development was initiated under iDEX for High Altitude Platform System HAPS. HAPS UAV will fly in the stratosphere for months. A huge step towards cutting edge aerospace development by startups,” Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said.
The first phase of the programme will be undertaken by the startup with the seed funding by the defence ministry and the prototype development is likely to see HAL as the lead partner. The estimated budget to develop the system is upwards of ₹700 crores and it will be part of HALs Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) that seeks to integrate manned airborne platforms with swarm drones and a high altitude surveillance network.
Similar efforts to develop a pseudo satellite are being undertaken in Europe and the US but no such system has been deployed yet, giving the technology a cutting edge status. The HAPS is being designed to undertake surveillance and communication duties for months and will also have applications in the civilian domain in the future. The UAV is being designed to fly at 70,000 feet, which would be out of range for most air defence systems and would rely on solar energy to power itself for months to a stretch.