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StratCom exploring Indian markets for airships

Our Bureau

Bangalore , July 17

THE former head of the US Star Wars programme of the 1980s is now in the country offering his unique communication solution to the Indian market.

The country's defence agencies and IT companies, he says, are potential technology partners in the development of the customised payloads for these airships.

`Stratospheric airships,' the first airborne infrastructure of its kind under development in the US, could be a low-cost option for defence and civilian systems in the country. These can even complement the existing satellite network, according to Lt Gen James Abrahamson, formerly with the US Air Force and who has founded StratCom International LLC, mainly to develop the strategic airships.

StratCom is exploring the Indian market, as well as R&D partnerships with agencies like ISRO and DRDO, Lt Gen Abrahamson, who is StratCom Chairman and CEO, said after a presentation here on Thursday.

He is on a visit to Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi to talk to potential takers - government, defence organisations, technocrats and even industry majors - for his airships.

Stratospheric airships are unmanned vehicles, extremely light, powered by solar cells and flown balloon like to a fixed spot 20 km from earth. They can carry communication, broadcast payloads of 907 to 5440 kg - compared to 2 tonne that domestic Insat satellites can carry today in their 36,000 km orbit.

The US Department of Defence is fully supporting the developmental cost of the airships at over $100 million and the first prototype should be ready by 2005-06. Aerospace major Lockheed Martin, which will build the lightweight planes, is also a partner in the Florida-based StratCom.

Offering almost all that a satellite can do, the airships, he said, can operate free of towers and ground systems to reach any remote place in a region and can be used for broadcast, telecom, distance education, telemedicine, disaster management; and fitted with cameras and radars, they can be used for border surveillance or resource mapping purposes.

They can support analog and digital voice in multiple bands, interactive video and broadcasting, low power communication in civilian areas.

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