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  • Context (TH | DH): Scientists at the CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) have successfully tested a UAV called High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) at Challakere, Karnataka.
  • The trial version was a subscale model with a wingspan of 12 metres. It flew for eight and a half hours at an altitude of 3 km above the mean sea level.
  • Whereas the full-scale model
    • will have a wingspan of around 30 metres and a weight of 150 kg.
    • It will be a slow-moving aircraft with a speed of 80-100 km per hour.
    • It will be able to fly for 90 days at an altitude of 17-20 km.
    • The payload carrying capacity will be 15 kg.
  • Several nations and companies are currently working on a commercial HASP, but there is barely any product in the market yet.

About High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS)

  • They are named pseudo-satellites because they perform basic satellite functions, but they do not require a rocket for launching.
    • E.g. they can observe the ground from high altitudes, achieving this at a much lower cost.
  • HAPs are like drones, except that they are expected to be in the stratosphere, well above where commercial planes fly.
  • Flexibility over satellites: They can be easily moved to a location of choice, unlike a satellite, which has a fixed predetermined path.
  • They are powered by solar cells and can fly continuously in the atmosphere for days.

Applications

  • Military: intelligence, surveillance, & reconnaissance (exploratory military survey of enemy territory).
  • Civilian: Can be used as a telecom satellite in times of environmental disasters, for beaming 5G waves and land mapping.

Challenges

  • Overcoming climatic factors like jet-stream in northern parts of the country as well as monsoon clouds since HAPS are placed in the Stratosphere.
  • Solar films used to power the plane are extremely thin. There are only one or two companies in the world capable of making solar-cell films that thin.
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