Drones Current Affairs

First flight test of Rustom-2 UAV successfully conducted in user configuration with higher power engine

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has carried out first successful test-flight of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Rustom-2 in user configuration with higher power engine. The flight was conducted at its Aeronautical Test Range at Chitradurga in Karnataka and all its parameters were normal.

Rustom-2

Rustom-2 belongs to family of UAVs under development, including Rustom-1 and Rustom-H. It is medium-altitude long-endurance drone (MALE). It can fly up to an altitude of 22,000 feet and has endurance of over 20 hours. It is capable of carrying payloads for electronic and signal intelligence missions.

Rustom-2 has been modelled on Rustom-H UCAV with light airframe. It is 9.5 metres long and stands 2.4 metres tall with wingspan of 20.6 metres. It is propelled by two 3-bladed NPO saturn engines. Its tail section comes with T-type vertical stabiliser and high-mounted horizontal tailplane.

It can fly at around 280 km/h and carry variety of payloads like Long Range Electro Optic (LREO), Medium Range Electro Optic (MREO), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Communication Intelligence (COMINT) and Situational Awareness Payloads (SAP) for performing missions even during the night.

Rustom 2 can fly missions on manual as well as autonomous modes. Its data link developed by Defence Electronics Application Laboratory (DEAL) transmits the ISR data to the armed forces’ ground control station in realtime allowing prompt action.

Rustom 2’s onboard way-point navigation system allows drone to conduct missions autonomously. It will be used by all three services of Indian armed forces, primarily for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. Several critical systems and components of Rustom 2, like its airframe, avionics sub-systems, flight control, landing gear etc. have been made indigenously and some in collaboration with private manufacturers.

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US Approves Sale of UAV Technology to India

The United States has cleared the sale of the state-of-the-art Guardian 22 unmanned Guardian drones to India. The deal to sell UAV drones to India is estimated to be worth $2 to $3 billion. Though the deal has been approved by the State Department, an official announcement regarding the deal is yet to be announced.

Significance

The transfer of the state-of-the-art UAV technology to India will be the first significant progress after India’s entry into the exclusive Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and after the US has designated India as a major defence partner. India became the 35th full member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016.

The transfer of Guardian UAV technology is aimed at furthering mutual security interests to protect the Indian Ocean.

The deal would also pave the way for the transfer of other key technology sales from the US to India. The Guardian unmanned aircraft has been classified as Category 1 aircraft with cutting edge technologies.

Background

Last year, the Indian Navy had requested for this intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform. The US has designated India as a “major defence partner” under the Obama Administration. The US considers India as a key player to counter the Chinese threat. However, the Guardian UAV proposal was kept in abeyance under Obama administration.

UAVs operate without a human pilot. UAVs are commonly used in both the military and police forces in situations where the risk of sending a human piloted aircraft is unacceptable, or the situation makes using a manned aircraft impractical.

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