India launches 1st aerostat radar

DRDO scientists successfully test fly the surveillance probe-on-balloon in Agra

The indigenous aerostat — a giant helium-filled balloon tethered to the ground — carried electro-optic and COMINT (communication intelligence) payloads, said officials from defence research and development organisation.

On the Christmas Day, scientists at Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment in Agra carried out surveillance all over Agra and intercepted a variety of communications by flying the aerostat up to an altitude of one km. The complete balloon system, ground-based command and control systems and the payloads were integrated for the three-day trial that culminated on Tuesday.

DRDO claims the aerostat can carry out steering, scanning and tracking with high precision. The payload also contains a thermal-imaging camera for surveillance during night and in low visibility conditions.

“Trials had been completed and the aerostat is ready for induction. Both the Army and Air Force are showing interest, but there are no orders from them as yet,” said a DRDO spokesperson.

Security holes

Besides enhancing surveillance along the Pakistan and China border, the forces are in the need of aerostats to plug the gaping security holes along India’s 7,500 km coastline, which is increasingly becoming vital from a strategic perspective.

ADRDE conducted the first trial of the 2,000 cubic metre balloon more than a year ago. But more trials were needed to validate various subsystems mounted on the balloon.
Payload details

The electronic intelligence payload carries a communication intelligence system for capturing and analysing all types of communication in air.

Incidentally, as DRDO completed the development of its indigenous aerostat named Divya Chakshu, another aerostat — developed by National Aerospace Laboratories — is waiting for a trial since the last two years in the absence of a flight testing range.

The National Aerospace Laboratories product is six times smaller than the DRDO but can be useful for disaster and para-military operations including the fight against Naxals.

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