The solar-powered Infinity drone can fly above 65,000 feet for 90 days while monitoring attacks

New Delhi: Design and development of an ultra high altitude Indian-made drone, first identified by NDTV in a 2017 report, has progressed significantly and could be available to the Indian armed forces within three to five years.

The solar-powered drone, called the Infinity, is designed to cruise at an altitude of more than 65,000 feet for ninety days and would be a key element in India's unmanned drone warfare programme called CATS or the Combat Air Teaming System.

''The stratosphere will form the next phase of exploitation for the next generation of airborne platforms towards future warfare needs,'' said a source closely involved in the programme being spearheaded by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. in partnership with NewSpace, a Bangalore based start-up closely involved in developing cutting-edge drone solutions.

Equipped with a variety of sensors including a state-of-the-art synthetic aperture radar, Infinity will keep track of targets deep within enemy territory and coordinate attack missions carried out by other Indian drone systems, such as the Warrior 'loyal wingman,' Alfa-S swarm drones or Hunter cruise missile which are part of India's indigenous Combat Air Teaming System.

Infinity would also be able to relay a live video feed from the attack drones to monitoring stations on the ground. This would provide visual confirmation of the success of unmanned drone attacks. Video such as this was missing during the Indian Air Force attack on a Pakistani terrorist-training camp in Balakot in 2019, leading to several questions being asked on the success of the mission.

Hindustan Aeronautics also says that the Infinity drone will not only support military operations but can also use its infra-red and imaging payload to provide services towards disaster management, smart cities and natural resource management.

It can also be deployed by the Ministry of Home Affairs for disaster operations management and the Shipping Ministry to monitor our coastal waterways.

With operational costs believed to be substantially lower than the cost of fabricating, launching and operating a regular satellite, a system like Infinity can ''enhance 4G and 5G services where a lot of the satellite and terrestrial network can be shifted to the sky.''