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Thursday, 19 November 2009

Setback to India: UAV Demonstrator Crashes During Trials

In a setback to India's indigenous long-range endurance UAV program, a technology demonstrator of the Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) UAV, named Rustom, crashed during the first trials Nov. 16.
Sources in India's defense research agency, the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), said scientists from Israeli had helped engineers from the Aeronautical Developmental Establishment, DRDO's Bangalore-based UAV laboratory, to build Rustom.
"First flight of the technology demonstrator for MALE UAV called Rustom-I took place on 16-11-2009 at the Taneja Aerospace Air Field near Hosur. The taxiing and takeoff was exactly as planned. Due to misjudgment of altitude of the flight, the on-board engine was switched off through ground command which made the on-board thrust developed to go to zero," said the official Nov. 17 DRDO news release.
In a departure from traditional practice, Rustom will be produced in partnership with a domestic defense firm. Talks to select the partner, which include the Tata Group, L&T and Godrej & Boyce, are likely to be concluded by year's end, said DRDO scientists.
DRDO officials said the crash would not scrap the Rustom project.
"There are a lot of gains from the flight. The flight proved the functioning of number of systems such as aerodynamics, redundant flight control, engine, redundant data link etc which go a long way toward development of complex UAVs," the news release said.
The Rustom would be equipped for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance; communication and data relay; and scientific and meteorological operations. It will be able to operate in all climates, day or night; have autonomous takeoff and landing from a runway; be capable of carrying guided weapons; have a payload capacity of 250-500 kilograms; and have a low radar and acoustic signature.
The Rustom will be able to remain aloft for more than 24 hours and have a range of 300 kilometers and a maximum altitude of 35,000 feet. It will be able to use satellite links to transmit data, thereby extending its surveillance range beyond 1,000 kilometers.
The 1,100-kilogram UAV also will be equipped with a maritime patrol radar and electro-optic sensors from Israel, and an engine still to be determined. The electronic warfare and communication system will be indigenous.