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India tests 'pilot-less planes' for anti-Naxal ops

Source: PTI
April 15, 2010 17:51 IST
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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, used by United States' forces to track down Taliban militants, successfully flew over the dense forests of Bastar in Chhattisgarh in the first trial run for anti-Naxal operations.

The trials, which assumed urgency after the Dantewada massacre in which 76 security personnel were killed by the Maoists, were aimed at generating real-time intelligence information to help ground forces in any offensive.

The first trial involved an American UAV. The decision to have UAV flights was taken by the Union home ministry after the April six attack and their field trials were ordered immediately.

An UAV of US' Honeywell, whose pilot-less planes are reportedly used successfully by allied forces in the hunt for targets in war-hit Afghanistan and Iraq, flew during the night trial.

The compact UAV, weighing nearly 10 kilograms, was put through the rugged terrains of the hills overlooking Kanker after its take off from Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in Kanker.

The trials which commenced on Wednesday and continued till the wee hours of Thursday morning was witnessed by officials not only from Chattisgarh and the Union Home Ministry, but also by police officials of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.

Cruising over the hills, the UAV was checked for providing thermal images of any movement on the ground, detection of improvised explosive devices and ammunition dumps.

The UAV known as T-MAV (Micro Air Vehicle) is a compact machine manufactured by 'Honeywell'. The company, during its briefing for officials, claimed that its deployment and stowing operations can be accomplished in less than five minutes.

This UAV was slected first for field trials as it has been claimed that it has been useful to the US forces in tracking down Taliban militants in high mountain passes and dense Waziristan area of Pakistan.

The UAVs are urgently required as the forces engaged in anti-naxal operations need real-time information to achieve greater success. It can go up to a height of 10,000 feet, fly at a speed of 70 kms per hour and can provide 240 minutes of sensor imagery to the ground station.

The night-long trials also saw its use in detecting people in pitch dark and dense forests. In certain cases of mine detection, the UAV could not pick up signals properly and only showed some disturbance on the surface.

A UAV of Defence Research and Development Organisation, which has claimed to have a similar product, may be tried soon. However, its UAV trials two years back had not got the desired results.

With intelligence gathering still a problem in Naxal areas, the UAVs are expected to help in gathering advanced reconnaissance and situational awareness functions would be critical in protection of security personnel.

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