Aerostat stuck in Bangalore hangar

Aerostat stuck in Bangalore hangar

Aerostat stuck in Bangalore hangar

An eye to hover on the horizon, the aerostat – Chakshu – has been developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories. It can float in air for six hours to beam pictures.
The aerostat can be tethered to the ground or flown with remote control.

“The flight range in Kolar cannot be used as it falls within the path of flights taking off or landing at the Bangalore airport. The proposed range in Chitradurga is not yet ready. We cannot test our aerostat and fine-tune the technology,” S Selvarajan, a NAL scientist associated with the project told Deccan Herald here.

Incidentally, a bigger and better-quality non-military aerostat – brought from abroad spending more than Rs 30 crore – enthralled the audience at the inauguration of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last month.

The home-made Chakshu has been developed under a three-year-old collaboration between NAL under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Defence Research and Development Organisation. The scientists hope to carry out a field trial after the DRDO flight testing range in Chitradurga is ready in 2011.

Cameras mounted on the 320-cubic metre helium-filled balloon can see the enemy from a distance of 30 km. At the moment, it has one camera, but is capable of carrying two more for sending pictures continuously from different angles.

Vulnerability factor

In its existing configuration, Chakshu can climb up to a maximum altitude of 1,500 mt. Asked about the risks from ground firing, Selvarajan said it was a little vulnerable at 1,500 metres. But a bigger aerostat that could climb up to 3,000 mt would be safe because at such an altitude it will look like a “speck in the sky” said Selvarajan.

Surveillance of Afganistan capital Kabul is being done by a similar aerostat. However, the bigger one will not materialise unless the smaller one is evaluated in flight tests.
Currently, all aerostat balloons being used in India are imported from Israel for military purposes. They are much bigger compared to what NAL has developed. The first two aerostats were deployed in Punjab and Kutch to watch the Pakistan border.

Defence ministry plans to buy more aerostats for deploying along the coast to plug critical gaps in border surveillance. Meanwhile, the DRDO has taken one step to realise the first Indian aerostat for military applications. The balloon is christened as Divya Chakshu.

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