India may soon have its own 'Predator drones'
India is developing an unmanned aerial vehicle similar to the American Predator drones with an investment of Rs 1,500 crore and planning unmanned combat vehicles, a key official involved in the project said on Monday.
UAV Rustom-2 project is spread over 66 months, director of Bengaluru-based Aeronautical Development Establishment, a Defence Research and Development Organisation laboratory, P S Krishnan, told PTI.
Rustom-2 would have a wing-span of 21-odd metres and an endurance of 24-hours-plus, as against seven-odd metres an 12-15 hours of Rustom-1, which has already completed five flights. ADE is the nodal lab for these projects.
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Image: File image of an American Predator drone
Photographs: US army handout/Reuters
Rustom-2 would have new payloads
Rustom-2 would have new payloads such as synthetic aperture radar, maritime patrol radar and collision avoidance system, among others, he said. "With its capability and the amount of payload it can carry, it (Rustom-2) compares well with (American) Predator (drones) and other class of vehicles," Krishnan said.
The Predator is a nickname given to one in a series of UAVs, or pilotless drones, operated by the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency and, increasingly, other agencies of the US federal government such as the border patrol.
Asked if India is also developing unmanned aerial combat vehicles, he said "we are thinking of that one. Some plans will be there". Meanwhile, Rustom-1, the Medium Altitude Long EnduranceUnmanned Aerial Vehicle (MALE - UAV), would be integrated with payloads by next month, Krishnan said. "We have demonstrated all the flying characteristics of the Rustom more or less in the final form".
Image: File image of a Rustom drone
'There are lots of technological challenges'
Krishnan said the Indian army is keenly watching the developments of Rustom-1, which has the potential military missions like reconnaissance and surveillance, target acquisition, target designation, communications relay, battle damage assessment and signal intelligence.
India has also started working on solar-power UAVs but is still at the research and development stage. DRDO's Chief Controller (Aero), A Subhananda Rao, said this solar-powered UAV would have an endurance of "almost one week".
"Solar power will have to be harnessed and energy converters of higher efficiency will have to be designed," Rao told mediapersons. "Lot of technological challenges are there. But definitely we will be getting into that. We are making a case for project sanction", he added.
Image: A remote controlled model of the Rustom UAV
Photographs: Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons