Friday, November 6, 2015

India’s Own MALE UAV To Fly Soon

  Nov 5, 2015

India’s own MALE UAV is shown during recent taxi trials. It is named Rustom-2 after an Indian aeronautical scientist. (Photo: HAL)

The Rustom-2 medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned air vehicle (UAV) designed by India’sDefense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) will make its first flight by early next month. Delayed by around two years, Rustom-2 “is at an advanced state of readiness,” according to Ashok Rangan, the program director at the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a DRDO laboratory that develops and transfers technology to a production agency. The project was first shown as a full-scale model at the Aero India show in 2010.
Rangan told AIN that Rustom-2 is benefiting from experience gained with the Rustom-1, also known as the Light Canard Research Aircraft (LCRA). This project of the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) developed a small UAV that resembled the Rutan Long-EZ manned sportplane. It flew 55 times and still has “enormous scope and potential,” according to Rangan.    
Rustom-2 will be further developed and produced by a consortium comprising Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), DRDO and Bharat Electronics Ltd. They have jointly invested $46 million, Rangan told a UAV seminar held in New Delhi this week. The initial requirement is for 76 for the the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.
Rangan explained the third and fourth airframes are going through a design validation phase that would end in January 2016. The fifth to eighth airframes for the user evaluation phase have been ordered. They will evaluate payloads including electro-optics, synthetic aperture radar, multifunction phased array radar, electronic intelligence and satcom. Rangan told AIN airframes 9 to 15 will follow from the production line by early 2017.
The biggest challenge being faced is an overweight airframe. “Today it weighs 2,400 kg [5,300 pounds]. We are looking to bring that down to 1,700 kg [3,700 pounds] after delivery of the first 24,” Rangan said. The military has set exacting qualitative requirements, he added, including multi-sensor payloads weighing no more than 360 kg (800 pounds) and an endurance of 25 hours. The added weight obliged ADE to fit larger powerplants: Austro Engine AE300 diesels rated at 170 hp.

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