Indian scientists have indigenously developed an aerostat which could be deployed for surveillance of Naxal-hit areas, but is currently lying in a hangar at Bangalore for want of a flight range to test it.
Christened as 'Chakshu', this medium-sized aerostat is a result of a three-year collaboration between National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) lab, and Defence Research and Development Organisation.
The 320-cubic metre helium-filled balloon can keep an eye on the happenings below it, remaining stationary at an altitude of 1.5 km. The giant balloon can be tethered to the ground station and also can be flown using remote control.
Three cameras can be mounted on the aerostat each having a range to scan developments in a 30 km radius. It can float in air for six hours to beam pictures.
The scientists hope to carry out field trials after the DRDO flight testing range in Chitradurga in Karnataka is ready in 2011.
"We have been unable to carry out test flight of the aerostat as we do not have a flight range. The one at Kolar cannot be used as it falls in the path of flights taking off or landing at the Bangalore airport," S Selvarajan, a NAL scientist, said.
He admitted that the aerostat could be vulnerable to enemy fire at its current altitude of 1.5 km.
India imports aerostat balloons from Israel for military purposes like keeping a watch on the international border.
However, they are much bigger that the one developed by the NAL.