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High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite Vehicle (HAPS)

Published: 15th Feb, 2024

High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite Vehicle (HAPS)

Context

THE NATIONAL Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in Bengaluru has successfully completed the first test of a solar-powered “pseudo satellite”, a new age unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can significantly increase India’s surveillance and monitoring capabilities in the border areas.

About

  • High-altitude pseudo satellites, or HAPS, are unmanned air vehicles that can hold a fixed position. 
  • Operational height: HAPS operate in the stratosphere, closer to Earth than many satellites but further up than drones and conventional aircraft.
    • The high-altitude pseudo satellite vehicle, or HAPS, can fly at altitudes of 18-20 km from the ground, almost double the heights attained by commercial airplanes.

Significance:

  • Solar-Powered Operation: A distinguishing feature of India’s HAPS is its reliance on solar power for sustained operation. 
  • Advantages of a satellite: due to its ability to generate solar power, it can remain in air for months, even years, offering it advantages of a satellite.
  • Cost effective: But because it does not require a rocket to get into space, the cost of operating HAPS is several times lower than that of a satellite that is usually placed at least 200 km from the earth.
  • Better solution: HAPS can be very useful in disaster situations as well. 

What is the need?

  • Need of continuous surveillance of border areas: The need for development of high-endurance, high-altitude flying instruments arose from the desire to have continuous surveillance of border areas to detect changes or movements, particularly in the wake of the Doklam standoff in 2017.
  • Issue with the present system:
    • Battery-powered UAVs can remain in air for a limited period of time and can scan relatively smaller areas.
    • Satellites placed in low-earth orbits and meant to observe the Earth usually move in their orbits and are not watching constantly.

HAPS is a still-developing technology, and the recent successful test flight puts India among a very small group of countries currently experimenting with this technology

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