India’s NewSpace test-flies high-altitude long-endurance UAV

26 Dec 2023

India’s NewSpace test-flies high-altitude long-endurance UAV

Bengaluru-based NewSpace Research and Technologies Pvt Ltd (NRT) on Saturday said it has carried out the first test-flight of a solar-powered, long-endurance drone.

The High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) flew over 21 hours during its first test flight, had carried out its first flight, a development that gives a boost to India’s plan to have its own long-endurance drones capable of flying in the stratosphere.

The project, part of the government’s Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX), aims at developing a solar-powered, long-endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). NRT has signed a contract for an initial proof-of-concept demonstrator that can remain air-borne for more than 48 hours.

The first test-flight was carried out on 22 December, the Winter Soltice, when the day is the shortest, Sameer Joshi, CEO of the start-up and a former Air Force pilot, stated in a post on social media X. The next flight-test will be carried out on 21 June, the Summer Solstice, when the day is the longest, he added.

The UAV carried out its day-and-night flight using direct sunlight during the day and the solar-charged battery during night. The HAPS UAV is being designed for uninterrupted surveillance, communications, and scientific missions.

While details of the test-flight has not been revealed, the HAPS’s flight path is projected at 65,000 feet above the earth against the 38,000 feet that a commercial aircraft attains during flight.   

The HAPS project, which is part of the defence ministry’s Rs1,000 crore `Make-in-India’ programme for the IAF and the Indian Navy, is 70 per cent funded by the government.

The National Aerospace Laboratories under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is also working on a similar project. 

Using only solar power and flying 16-20 km above the earth for months at a stretch, the HAPS will act as a platform between satellites and High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs. 

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