India’s Aerospace Pioneers Successfully Test Solar-Powered UAV Prototype

In a significant step forward for the Indian aerospace sector, researchers at CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) have carried out a successful flight test for a new type of high-flying drone technology known as High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS). Unlike conventional drones, HAPS operates in the stratosphere, far above commercial flight paths, and is capable of remaining airborne for extended periods due to solar power and an advanced battery system. While the recently tested prototype is an early version of the envisioned system, it has already hit performance targets during its roughly eight-hour flight at 3 kilometers altitude.

The breakthrough flight test, conducted in Karnataka, highlights the potential of HAPS to revolutionize applications such as surveillance, communication, and terrain mapping. The ambitious project aims to create a fully operational HAPS with a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 737 by 2027. This larger version is anticipated to reach altitudes up to 23 kilometers and stay aloft for a minimum of 90 days uninterrupted.

Although still a work-in-progress, the unmanned aerial vehicle exhibits considerable design and engineering complexity. It employs a lightweight airframe and solar-cell films designed for sustained flight in the thin atmosphere of the stratosphere. The prototype’s success provides insightful data, especially concerning balance and stability amidst atmospheric forces, laying the groundwork for a larger, more robust craft. The director of CSIR-NAL, along with the program’s scientists, emphasize the importance of India developing its own advanced HAPS capabilities, given their wide range of potential uses.

CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in India has successfully flight-tested a prototype High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS), a solar-powered, unmanned aerial vehicle poised to revolutionize long-duration flight applications such as surveillance and communications. Although the current prototype is a smaller-scale version, the project’s goals are set high with an ambitious vision for a craft that can match the wingspan of a Boeing 737 and remain airborne in the stratosphere for 90 days by 2027.

FAQ Section Based on the Article

What is HAPS?
High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) is a new type of drone technology that operates in the stratosphere, capable of staying airborne for long periods, primarily powered by solar energy and an advanced battery system.

Where was the HAPS test conducted and what was the outcome?
The test was conducted in Karnataka, India, by the CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). The prototype flew for approximately eight hours at an altitude of 3 kilometers and met its performance targets.

What are the potential uses for HAPS?
HAPS technology has diverse uses, including but not limited to surveillance, communication, and terrain mapping.

What are the future goals for the HAPS project?
The project aims to develop a fully operational HAPS with a wingspan comparable to that of a Boeing 737, which could reach altitudes of up to 23 kilometers and have the ability to stay aloft for a minimum of 90 days without interruption by 2027.

What is the significance of the successful HAPS test for India?
The success of the HAPS prototype is a major step forward for the Indian aerospace sector, showcasing India’s capability to develop advanced unmanned aerial vehicles and highlighting the potential for domestic technological advancements in the field.

Definitions of Key Terms and Jargon

HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo Satellite): An unmanned aerial vehicle designed to fly at high altitudes in the stratosphere, capable of very long-duration flights, primarily powered by renewable energy sources such as solar power.

Stratosphere: The second major layer of Earth’s atmosphere, just above the troposphere, and below the mesosphere, starting at about 10 kilometers (6 miles) altitude and extending to roughly 50 kilometers (31 miles) altitude.

Lightweight Airframe: The structural frame of the aircraft designed for flight which, in the case of HAPS, is made to be especially light to allow prolonged flight at high altitudes.

Solar-cell Films: Thin layers of solar cells used to capture sunlight and convert it into electrical energy for powering the aircraft.

CSIR-NAL: Council of Scientific & Industrial Research-National Aerospace Laboratories, an Indian aerospace research and development institution.

Related Links
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Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)

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