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Program on Airship Design & Development (PADD)

PADD aims at developing airship technology in India for various scientific and commercial applications.

PADD is a national R&D project, launched at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) in 2001, with team members drawn from various national aerospace organizations, central government and faculty members from IITB.

An airship that can counter cross-border terrorism
by Imran Qureshi, Indo-Asian News Service
Hindustan Times, Bangalore, 17 July 2003

An American company is seeking India's cooperation in building the prototype of an airship that can combat cross-border terrorism and change the face of telecommunications and healthcare in the country.

StratCom, a firm headed by Lt Gen James Abrahamson, the first director of the US "Star Wars" programme, is seeking India's partnership in the stratospheric airship project for its expertise in vehicle design, payloads and control systems.

"India can demonstrate its leadership by partnering this programme. It has the right mixture of talent and the challenges it has faced," Abrahamson told a news conference in Bangalore on Thursday.

Asked if such an airship could help monitor the movement of people across borders like the one between India and Pakistan, he said, "It can be used for border patrol for homeland defence."

Abrahamson said he was in India to speak to scientists "who can manage these partnerships".

"I am very optimistic. India is a potential market but it has organisations like the Indian Space Research Organisation or the Defence Research and Development Organisation with specialisation in several payload areas," he noted.

Stratospheric airships are unmanned, solar-powered aircraft designed to fly at altitudes of up to 20 km or over 65,000 feet. The airships, which are 600 feet in length and 180 feet in diameter, can carry payloads ranging from 900 kg to 5,440 kg.

Airships can be positioned over a single point on the earth's surface and have defence and civil applications.

"They will offer reliable transmission and help in disaster management, mobile data communication in remote and rural areas as well as telemedicine or healthcare," Abrahamson said.

A fleet of four to six airships can provide coverage of key regions of India and strategic areas in South Asia.

"We can get the cost well below $20 million. And once we clear the learning curve, the cost could come down to $15 million," Abrahamson said.

Civil applications could cover wireless communication for mobile phone users, fixed local loop wireless communications to fixed homes or businesses and interactive television and interactive radio broadcasts.

Military payloads could include weapons, very high resolution multi-spectral cameras for observing ground, airborne or space targets, radars for ground imaging or aeronautical or space target tracking, and space-to-satellite relay for long haul communications.

The airships could have ballistic missile defence sensors or interceptor platforms as well as remote air traffic control systems that combined radar and communication platforms.

The programme funded by the US defence department is expected to produce its first prototype by end 2005 or early 2006.

Ramchand, an associate with the think-tank National Institute of Advanced Studies, said, "Lots of sensors could be put (on the airship) to monitor cross-border movement or for telemedicine. The programme is complementary and supplementary to what India is doing. The US will also benefit, more than India."

Ramchand was the former director of the Centre for Air Borne Systems.

US markets airships to India
by Habib Beary, Bangalore
BBC News, 17 July 2003

A US-based aerospace company has begun preliminary talks with Indian scientists to collaborate on an airship project designed for civil and military use.

Indian defence officials say it could be used for effective surveillance of the borders it shares with Pakistan and China.

Lieutenant General James Abrahamson, chairman of StratCom International and former director of the Star Wars programme initiated during the Reagan administration, is in talks with officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Indian Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO).

Mr Abrahamson said India, with its technical and software expertise, could play a vital role in developing telecommunication systems, telemedicine, broadband communications and disaster management.


Called stratospheric airships, the first airship prototype is being built with the support of the US defence department.

The unmanned airships powered by solar energy can carry radar sensors as well as the latest communications devices.

The US defence department has invested $100m in the project.
Each airship will cost about $20m and has an operating life of five years.

"These airships are ideal for a country like India where the large geographies demand more complex infrastructure," said Mr Abrahamson.

US military firm offers India stratospheric airships, eyes partners, Bangalore, India (AFP), 17 July 2003

A US-based firm headed by the former director of the US Strategic Defence Initiative "Star Wars" programme offered India its stratospheric airships Thursday and said it was seeking partners.

James Abrahamson, chairman of StratCom International LLC, said Indian state-run and private companies could collaborate for specific research and development programmes to apply to the new airships.

"India is potentially a terrific market," said Abrahamson. "And we are looking for partnerships which can be for building specific applications and also on the technical side."
Stratospheric airships are unmanned, autonomous solar-powered airships designed to fly at approximately 19,700 meters (65,000 feet) and to carry payloads ranging from 909 to 1,180 kilograms (2,000 to 7,000 pounds).

The airships, measuring 150 to 180 metres long and about 55 metres in diameter can be used for both civil and military applications.

"These airships will offer reliable transmission and help in disaster management, mobile data communication in remote and rural areas and telemedicine," Abrahamson told reporters in the southern IT hub of Bangalore.

"Stratospheric airships are extremely cost-effective and offer a range of benefits compared to any other satellite either for civil or defence applications," he said.
He said the airships, at a cost of about 20 million dollars each, were well-suited for a large country like India.

Civil applications include wireless communications and interactive television and radio broadcasts, while military payloads may carry very high resolution multi-spectral cameras for observing ground, airborne or space targets.

The US defence department has already pumped about 100 million dollars into the project and the first prototype will be ready by late 2005 or early 2006.

The airship will be designed to hover over a single point on the surface of the earth, autonomously navigating to counter winds, and will be able to navigate over long distances or on a combat patrol.

StratCom, a unit of the Delaware company, was formed to investigate and develop the benefits of stratospheric airships for military purposes and civil telecommunication applications.

The firm has an exclusive arrangement with Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics and Surveillance Systems, under which the high altitude airship programme for defence has been in development since 1998.

India launches ambitious airship project
by Ayanjit Sen, BBC, Delhi
BBC News, 7 January 2002

"India's premier engineering institute has launched an ambitious project to develop the country's first airship.

It would be possible to fly from one part of India to another in a helium-based vessel if the programme being developed by the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay is successful.

Millions of dollars are being invested in the project which aims to revolutionise transport industry in the country.

The project is being funded by an independent body - Technology, Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC).

Airships are airborne vehicles driven by engines which also control the vehicle in adverse weather conditions.

Advanced model

The first prototype airship is expected to be developed in three years.

Earlier designs used hydrogen but modern airships use inert helium for staying airborne.

Helium is not flammable.

The final prototype airship would be able to fly at 15,000 feet and would be able to carry up to two tons of weight, Dr Pant said.

He said this would be an advanced model as airships elsewhere could not fly over 7,000 feet.

The project would also explore other possible uses of airships including commercial operations in India.

Widespread uses

Dr Pant said airships could be used for advertising, aerial photography and wildlife tracking.

They could also be used for traffic monitoring, aerial surveillance and for relief work during natural calamities, he said.

Experts say airships can prove useful in India in carrying passengers in the absence of good surface transport systems.

Dr Pant said an airship with a capacity of carrying up to 12 passengers could cost more than $6m.

He said there were plans to lease some airships from other countries to increase public awareness in India."

Airships to be resurrected
By P.Sunderarajan
The Hindu: India's National Newspaper, 10 June 2001

NEW DELHI, JUNE 9, 2001. A group of Indian scientists have joined an international effort to resurrect airships, which were an important form of transportation of men and material during World War II, but which went into disuse following a major mishap.

With the end of the Cold War, the main aim of the effort is to use it for passenger and freight movement in difficult terrains like hilly areas, which are prone to landslips, for lifting men and material during earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters and for urban management like riot control.

According to the scientists working on the project, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology's Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), the complete design for the airship would be ready by the end of this year and the first prototype could roll out by 2004. Commercial flights could commence three years later.

Mr. Y.S.Rajan, Executive Director, TIFAC, and one of the main person behind the project, said the modern airships would be far safer than those used in the World War II times, considering the rapid advances that have taken place in the areas of guidance systems and avionics in recent years.

They would also be sleeker and carry more weight as newer materials are now available in the wake of developments in the area of composite materials.

Mr. Rajan, who is also technical secretary to Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government, told The Hindu that the airships would also be a cheaper mode of transport compared to the conventional aircraft and helicopters, and at the same time be a more viable alternative, as they would be able to take off and land vertically and thus would not need laying of runways or airstrips. Several airlines have already shown interest in the project, he added.

A group of scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, have been designated as the nodal agency for the project and they are working in collaboration with scientists teams across the country and several industries specialising in composite materials, avionics and other such high tech areas.

The Indian scientists are also in close touch with their counterparts in the U.S., Russia, and Germany, where similar efforts were on to ensure constant sharing of expertise.

This site was created, written and is maintained by John Dziadecki 1995-2014. Images and quotes that are not the author's remain in the copyright of the originator. The information contained in this website is for educational purposes only. Additions and corrections are welcomed! Please send comments, suggestions and possible links to Last update: 17 October 2005