No other defence system, manned or unmanned, is as cost-effective as aerostats

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No other defence system, manned or unmanned, is as cost-effective as aerostats

Wednesday, 22 March 2023 | Agencies

No other defence system, manned or unmanned, is as cost-effective as aerostats

With geopolitical instabilities becoming increasingly severe and with vast borders comprising of 15200 km of land and a coastline of 7517 km presenting a challenging security scenario, India has been looking to bolster and secure both its land and maritime bordersas part of a holistic approach to strengthening the air defence environment in the country. It will also enhance its offshore patrol capabilities.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Border Security Force (BSF) are continuously looking for emerging technologies to integrate into their systems for stakeouts at critical border locations.India uses surveillance drones in transnational border areas that allow border agents to monitor areas that are difficult to access. Smart video monitoring, movement sensors, perimeter intrusion detection systems, radar systems and aerostats are also in play. While each plays a crucial role in safeguarding India, aerostats are fast becoming a very attractive prospect. 

While the country presently deploys large aerostats for wide area radar-based monitoring of border areas, airships, new cargo airships, mid-sized aerostats and tactical aerostats, it is not nearly enough for a country of India’s size with intricate terrain, including valleys, plateaus, snow-capped mountains and other such inhospitable areas.

The Indian Air Headquarters has been looking at Indian private tech companies, research and development establishments and academic institutes that have the requisite technical expertise and financial capability, as well as experience, in developing and testing aviation-related equipments. Why?

Aerostats are compelling

An aerostat is a low-cost, effective way to raise a payload in the sky. They are quite insensitive to weather and work equally well in both tropical and Arctic climates. Typical payloads are day and night cameras, surveillance radars, VHF and UHF repeaters and TV& radio transmissions.

Filled with helium and fitted with an air ballonet to compensate for changes in temperature and altitude, tethered aerostats can be made in almost any size. Smaller aerostats can be easily packed away and re-inflated in only half an hour.

The larger size aerostat systems have a greater capacity that allows systems to operate at higher altitudes for greater surveillance range while remaining aloft for up to two weeks at a time, ensuring persistent round-the-clock surveillance for highly trafficked areas and maritime borders.

Since 2013,Israel has been India’s biggest supplier of aerostat systems. These aerostatshave been deployed along India’s north-eastern border to tighten control over this sensitive area.

Push for indigenous productionby the government under ‘Make in India’ mission and the obsolescence of existing surveillance equipments is bringing Indian private players to the fore.

Tech companies & new horizons

With the government offering subsidies and ensuring ease-of-doing-business, it’s likely that India will have a robust homegrown aerostat tech system in place in the not-too-distant future.

ACSG Corp. is one such private tech company investing in the research and development of aerostats. As a Critical Infrastructure Protection company, ACSG has been analysing, as part of research, the various challenges that the Indian security system currently faces in critical regions along its border. The company wants to build tailor-made solutions.

Major Vijay (retd.), spokesperson ACSG, says, “We are studying existing deployments and exploring innovative add-ons to make surveillance more effective through aerostats. For border security applications, we are looking at elevated-awareness aerostats capable of persistent surveillance solutions with unique advantages over traditional ground-based radar and onboard surveillance systems”.

 

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