Advanced drone project gets Rs.1,540 cr funding

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The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) cleared a Rs.1,540 crore proposal from the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the Bangalore-based defence laboratory, to design and develop an advanced version of its Rustom-1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)—which will significantly enhance the capability of the country’s Armed Forces.

ADE director P.S. Krishnan said the lab received the approval around 10 days ago. Of the Rs.1,540 crore, Rs.1,156 crore will be used to develop 15 UAVs, while Rs.384 crore will go towards setting up a dedicated aeronautical test range (ATR) at Chitradurga, 200km from Bangalore.

The first UAV, named Rustom-H, is to take to the skies within three years and users can evaluate it after five-and-a-half years. The Rustom-1 has an operating altitude of 22,000 ft and an endurance of 12-15 hours, while the Rustom-H will have 30,000 ft of operating altitude and endurance of 24 hours. It is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV meant for surveillance of hostile areas, tracking targets and will replace the Israeli Heron UAV currently in service with the Indian Army. It can also carry loads of up to 350kg—long range electro-optics, synthetic aperture radar, maritime patrol radar, electronic and communication intelligence payload, radar warning receiver and a traffic collision avoidance system. And it will have the so-called automatic take-off and landing, or ATOL, capability.

“This UAV will bring in the new technology of de-icing to India, for which we are in talks with firms in Germany, Europe and Israel,” Krishnan said. He declined to reveal the name of the firms. De-icing is technology used to melt the ice that settles on the wings of a UAV when flying at high altitude. De-icing distorts the aerodynamics of the flying body and thus makes it unstable.

The laboratory is looking for partners to help it develop the vehicle and six firms including Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, Larsen and Toubro Ltd, Godrej Precision Systems, and the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd-Bharat Electronics Ltd consortium will be asked to submit proposals.

The project has its challenges. The UAV will have to share civilian airspace and will require certification from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, apart from a certification from the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification, another defence lab. “The ATOL feature, certification requirements, developing indigenous payload and de-icing are challenges to this project,” Krishnan admitted.

“Making the UAV will help India build indigenous capability and also help the nation to move up the value chain from low-end technology to high-end technology,” said Dhiraj Mathur, executive director of PricewaterhouseCoopers, India.

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Posted by pilotpaul on Mar 10 2011. Filed under All News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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