The Reliance Group, led by industrialist Anil Ambani, on Thursday said it has signed a pact with Augur Overseas Operation of Singapore to manufacture aerostats and airships in India for both the domestic and export markets.
"Under the agreement, the two companies will form a joint venture company with Reliance having a 51-percent stake, consistent with the current government regulations," the Reliance Group said in a statement.
"The joint venture will be involved in development, production, sales, modification and life support for different sizes of aerostats, airships and lighter-than-air systems. This venture will address the requirements of domestic market and also addressable regional/global markets."
Aerostats -- also called lighter-than-air aircraft -- comprise balloons to stay afloat and the airship to ferry passengers, cargo or payload. They get their lift from a body of gas, usually helium or hydrogen. Airships are asrostats equipped with propulsion to move on its own.
The pact announced on Thursday is an extension of earlier one between Augur Aeronautical Centre with Pipavav Defence, a company that was acquired some months ago by the Reliance Group. Augur Aeronautical Centre is a leading Aerostat and Airship designer, builder and supplier globally.
In fact, the first medium size aerostat envelope was delivered recently and acceptance tests were performed at the Pipavav facility. The tests included integration and simulated mooring, as also verification and functioning of Aerostat envelope together with pressurization system.
"In the present changing security scenario in the Indian context, the borders require constant monitoring as the country has a 7,000-km coast line with almost 14,000-km-long international border with various countries," the Reliance Group statement said.
"Aerostat radars are a force multiplier as they are deployed extensively in the surveillance, reconnaissance and communication roles by the armed forces. These are also useful in detecting low-flying fighter aircraft," the statement added.
As per industry estimates, the market for aerostats is projected to rise from Rs.25,000 crore (approx $4 billion) 2014 to Rs.65,000 crore by 2020, at an estimated compounded annual growth of 17 percent.
The present requirement by the armed Forces, including the paramilitary forces, is pegged at some 40 systems over the next five years with an estimated expenditure in excess of Rs.12,000 crore to meet its operational roles.
In natural disasters and other situations where infrastructure is non-existent, aerostats can be used to bring in emergency supplies such as food, water, blankets. Recently, aerostats have also seen a sharp rise in the tourism industry, which is expected to be around Rs.6,000 crore.
Major players in this field include TCOM-LP and Lockheed Martin, along with AAC.
With the indigenous aerostat program fully operational, as part of the "Make in India" initiative, India would join a select group of nations having developed such capabilities, including the US, Germany and France.