HAPS: India's Solar-Powered High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite

The National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in Bengaluru recently conducted the first test of a solar-powered high-altitude pseudo satellite (HAPS), showcasing India's advancement in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology.

  • The prototype demonstrated the capability to fly at altitudes of 18-20 km for extended periods, offering surveillance and monitoring advantages akin to satellites.

Key Points

  • Successful Test Flight: Cost-Effective Surveillance: HAPS, powered by solar energy, can hover in the air for months or even years, providing surveillance capabilities similar to satellites but at a fraction of the cost.
  • Unlike satellites, HAPS does not require rocket launches, significantly reducing operational expenses.
  • Milestone Achievement: The recent test flight, conducted in Karnataka's Challakere testing range, marked a significant milestone in HAPS development.
  • The scaled-down prototype flew for about eight and a half hours, reaching an altitude of approximately 3 km. Further testing aims to extend flight duration to 24 hours, testing the solar power generation and storage system.
  • Border Surveillance: The development of HAPS responds to the need for continuous surveillance of border areas, particularly highlighted during events like the Doklam standoff in 2017.
  • Battery-powered UAVs have limitations in endurance and coverage, while satellites may not offer constant monitoring due to orbit patterns.
  • Global Trends: The development of solar-powered unmanned aircraft is a global trend, with countries like China, South Korea, and the UK also investing in similar technologies.
  • Potential Applications: Besides border surveillance, HAPS can be utilized in disaster management scenarios and providing mobile communication networks in remote areas.
  • The technology offers flexibility and versatility in various applications traditionally served by satellites.
  • Future Outlook: The recent test flight represents progress in India's UAV capabilities and highlights the potential for future advancements in surveillance and communication technologies.