UAV Panchi Warms Up for Maiden Flight


By Anantha Krishnan M

BANGALORE: Defence scientists are all set to unveil the wheeled-version of India’s homegrown unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Nishant. The UAV named Panchi, means bird, and it will be capable of taking off and landing from semi-prepared runways, thereby reducing the turnaround time between missions.

Sources in the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) told Express on Wednesday that Panchi has already been transported to the testing facility in Kolar.

“We have completed the taxi trials and are readying it for the maiden flight. Panchi is currently undergoing some refinement and the mission readiness team will further asses the UAV,” a scientist working with the project from Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) told Express.

Similar to Nishant UAV, Panchi can be used for reconnaissance, intelligence gathering missions over hostile territory, target designation, surveillance and also to assess damages during natural calamities.

Once operational, Panchi will join the ranks of other proven wheeled UAVs from across the globe, including Searcher, Heron, Global Hawk and Predator,  capable of the conventional takeoff and landing.

“With the requirement for extended endurance and payload carrying capacity, the focus of launching and recovery of UAVs world over shifted from launcher and parachute systems to conventional take-off and landing techniques,” the scientist said.

The existing version of Nishant is launched from a mobile launcher and later recovered using parachute and landing bags.

This results in high impact loads on the aircraft systems, necessitating extensive inspections, checks and maintenance activities before launching again.

The mission team had to deal with many challenges while rolling out Panchi and still have some critical points to clear before the first flight.

“The handling of a remotely-controlled aircraft during its takeoff and landing procedures are extremely critical exercises. We have to ensure proper alignment of the aircraft to runway in addition to designing a control system with tighter control loops for quick corrections by the onboard system. Precise control of aircraft motion is required to assist the external pilot during various stages of the flight,” explained the scientist.

More orders for Nishant

ADE has already delivered four Nishants with one set of ground support systems to the Indian Army. Another eight Nishant UAVs and two sets of ground support systems are expected to join the Army fold. Low repair cost, faster software maintenance and 24X7 availability of technical support are some of the USPs being projected by the DRDO. The Army, on the other hand, wants the DRDO to ensure complete operational efficiency.