India’s state-run Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) has announced that the debut flight test of indigenously developed UAV Rustom-2 would take place in February 2014. The Rustom drone is being developed exclusively for defence purpose and will have advanced capabilities and additional payloads. ADE is a premier DRDO lab which is designing and developing various UAVs including the Rustom as well other combat and solar drones.
According to ADE Director P S Krishnan, the Rustom-2 UAV’s design has been completed and the purchase orders have been placed. ADE is currently on schedule to fly the Rustom-2 UAV for the first time in February 2014. He added that the entire project of making ten Rustom-2 UAVs and spare vehicles at a cost of around $ 342.25 million would be completed by August 2017.
The Rustom-2 UAV will be comparable to the American ‘Predator’ drone due to its state-of-art capabilities. Rustom-2 weighs 1.8 tonnes and will have a capacity payload of 350 kg, a wing span of 21-odd meters and an endurance of above 24 hours. "Rustom UAVs could be deployed for military missions like reconnaissance and surveillance, target acquisition, target designation, communications relay, battle damage assessment and signal intelligence.
Regarding the indigenous content of the Rustom drone, ADE has revealed that all parts, except for cameras and sensors, have been developed in the country. ADE officials added that indigenous technology would enable ADE save about 40 per cent cost. ADE has indicated that UAVs will be crucial for the armed forces as they can perform missions from reconnaissance to surveillance as well as search & rescue operations. Indian Army pilots have already been trained on simulators and actual test flights of Rustom-1, which was developed earlier last year on a technology demonstration basis.
Meanwhile, the second edition of the two-day international Conference on Autonomous Unmanned Vehicles is underway in Bangalore. DRDO, which includes the ADE lab, has indicated that solar-powered Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and vertical take-off and landing of UAVs will be key future developments. The solar-powered UAVs will have high-endurance capabilities and operate at altitudes up to 30,000 ft, ship-borne vertical take-off and landing UAVs, which will have rotors, can carry out reconnaissance activities on the high seas. At present, the high endurance long range is being developed and the requirement is one with 300-kilometre range and 24- hour endurance. This project's first flight will be in February 2014, said DRDO officials. DRDO also plans to develop stealth technology for UAVs and combat drones in future.