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ISRO aircraft sends first images from Nallamalla

By Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru
Last updated on: September 02, 2009 22:47 IST
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The first images clicked by the manned aircraft of the Indian Space Research Organisation, sent earlier on Wednesday to find traces of the missing Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Y S Rajashekhar Reddy in the Nallamalla forests, have been received and are being analysed by the National Remote Sensing Centre in Hyderabad, according to sources in ISRO.

However, neither sources in ISRO nor the Andhra Pradesh government were forthcoming on more information regarding the images that have been received through the manned aircraft.

"We are analyzing these images and only after that will we be able to say something concrete," sources in the ISO said.

Sources also added that the imaging by the manned aircraft may not be satisfactory in nature due to bad weather. This is why ISRO had decided to press into service its Radar Imaging Sattelite. ISRO says that the satellite would pass through the forest area early on Thursday morning. Images will be available only on Thursday and would be shared with the AP government first, they said.

There is an absolute need to use the Radar Imaging satellite since it is the only way to get a clear picture. The radar imaging satellite, according to ISRO, can provide images under all weather conditions. The bad weather would not be a hindrance for the satellite to send images to ISRO, they also added.

Further, this satellite can also detect metal and in case the chopper of the CM is stranded in the midst of the forest, the satellite could detect it easily. However, one needs to wait until Thursday morning in order to get the images, ISRO says.

However there is no word on whether NRSC would send its manned aircraft once again into the jungles to search for the CM. At present, NRSC operates two Beechcraft Super King Air B-200 aircraft.

These are pressurised twin turbo prop executive aircraft which have been modified to include standard wide angle and super wide angle cameras with multi spectral scanner system or aero magnetic sensor system, synthetic  aperture radar (SAR) and airborne Laser Terrain Mapping system with digital camera.

The aircraft is capable of carrying out aerial photographic surveys from ground height 400 feet to 30,000 feet. Photo scales from 1:4000 up to 1: 40,000 can be achieved. The data from Indian Remote Sensing Satellites are used for a variety of applications including natural resources monitoring and management.

Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force has deployed a Sukhoi fighter jet with on-board radar for high resolution ground mapping to locate it.

The air-to-air refuelling will help the Sukhoi to continue its search for longer hours as the aircraft is capable of operating day and night. The Sukhois have an endurance level of three to four hours of continuous flying, but it could be enhanced to about 10 hours at a stretch with refuelling.

The IAF has set up an operations room for the search operation at Kurnool manned by its technical personnel from Bengaluru to coordinate all the flying in the absence of an Air Control Tower (ATC) in the vicinity.

The twin-engined Bell 430 AP helicopter with the 60-year-old chief minister on board took off at 8.45 am and was scheduled to land at Chitoor district at 10.45 am. However, it soon lost radio contact and has been untraceable.

The chopper is said to have landed in the middle of a thick forest, which is infested with Maoists.

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru