India Defence Online, New Delhi — In a first of its kind move, the state-ownedDefence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has decided to include the private sector for the ‘Rustom’ Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) project.
The Rustom UAV project is spearheaded by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), part of the DRDO and the private aeronautical firm Taneja Aerospace & Aviation has been selected for the development of advanced critical system technologies pertaining to the ‘Rustom’ UAV.
The Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been significantly contributing to the ‘Rustom’ UAV and private firm Taneja Aersoapce & Aviation has already contributed to the prototype of the ‘Rustom’ UAV which is slated to fly in October. The areas wherein the private sector firm will contribute includes airframes and avionics. The ADE has just done the design and integration in the ‘Rustom’ UAV and other technologies and equipment have been outsourced through private firms.
The ‘Rustom’ UAV prototype can fly at an altitude of 25,000 feet for 12-15 hours at a speed of 180 kilometres per hour. However, the main UAV has a wingspan of 20 metres and weighs 1,800 kilogram. It has a maximum speed of 225 kilometres per hour and can operate at 30,000 feet altitude and its prototype aspires to reach capabilities of Israeli drones like Heron.
As for the capabilities of the ‘Rustom’ UAV, it will be able to execute surveillance of the enemy territory up to a distance of 250 kilometres and carry a variety of cameras and radar for surveillance. The first trial of the prototype was carried out in September 2008 and the DRDO also carried out tests through the technology demonstrator of the ‘Rustom’ in 2009. As for the ‘Rustom’ MALE UAV, it is being developed to replace medium altitude long-range UAV Herons manufactured by Israel, which the Indian armed forces are using currently. Unlike the other indigenous Indian drones or UAVs like ‘Lakshya’ and ‘Nishant’, the ‘Rustom’ UAV will be launched by conventional methods and not the launcher.
The role of the SMEs in the private sector will be substantial since a large number of public sector units (PSUs) will be outsourcing their work as a profitable solution. Private firms like Data Patterns India and Taneja Aerospace which are contributing to ‘Rustom’ UAV have seen an increase of demand from the defence sector due to their expertise. In fact, lots of collaborative development projects between private firms and PSUs have happened such as the one between IdeaForge and Pune-based Research and Development Establishment (Engineers) (R&DE), part of DRDO. They have created an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) called ‘Netra’ that will be a part of the Indian Armed Forces.
According to industry analysts, it has been estimated that UAVs developed for the Indian market alone will amount to a $2 billion opportunity for SMEs who can play a pivotal role as sub-contractors. The SMEs can offer components used for radars and UAVs like satellite communication antennas, sensors, intelligent cameras, transmitters and engine cooling fans besides other advanced technology.