Chandigarh, September 17
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing portable automatic weather stations (AWS) for use at remote airfields and helipads where there are no facilities to monitor climatic parameters.
While all regular IAF airbases have full-fledged meteorological services or fixed AWS, such facilities are not available at advance landing grounds (ALG) and helicopter operating sites located in Ladakh and the north-east.
Meteorological information such as surface temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloud cover and visibility is vital for aviation operations as these not only impact the performance of aircraft and helicopters but are also critical for flight safety, more so during take-off and landing.
According to DRDO scientists, flight operations to ALGs are not a regular basis but depend on particular requirements. ALGs are primarily unpaved airstrips or hardened mud in remote areas and have little navigation and support facilities except for possibly runway markers and a wind sock for indicating the direction and speed of the wind and a refuelling bowser and fire tender being stationed during a flight.
“Since operations to ALGs and other remote helipads are not frequent, there is no need to install permanent AWS as these will add to the maintenance effort,” a DRDO scientist said. “On the other hand, weather in the mountains can change without warning, which can affect flying. Portable AWS, which can be stored in nearby military units and deployed when needed, is an effective way to deal with this,” he added.
Daulat Beg Oldie, the highest airstrip at an altitude of 16,700 feet, Fukche and Nyoma, which has now been approved to be upgraded into a full-fledged fighter base, are ALGs located in Ladakh, while Tuting, Vijaynagar, Walong, Ziro and Tawang are among those located in the north-east. These are also numerous helipads of various sizes in high altitude areas that are used to ferry in men and equipment.
Besides helicopters, ALG’s are primarily serviced by the AN-32 tactical transporter. More recently, the C-130 Super Hercules also commenced operations to some of these strips. The C-17 Globemaster heavy lift aircraft is also capable of operating from unpaved runways.
The DRDO as well as the India Meteorological Department and the Airports Authority of India have been operating fixed AWS at many sites across India for generating weather data for scientific and operational purposes.
The portable version envisioned by DRDO is expected to be man-portable, with its sensors mounted on a collapsible stand and powered by chargeable batteries or solar panels, according to scientists. Apart from being deployed at ALGs and helipads, they can also be used in other places to meet specific operational requirements.
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