A look at the work of the Aeronautical Development Establishment, Bangalore, a Defence Research and Development Organisation lab.

There are six Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratories forming a cluster that carries out research and development in the crucial defence segment of aeronautics. A significant unit in this cluster is the ADE — Aeronautical Development Establishment, Bangalore (Website: www.drdo.gov.in/drdo/labs/ ADE/English/index.jsp?pg= homebody.jsp).

Though the ADE was established in 1959 and several aeronautical projects were taken up by it in the 1960s, a rapid expansion took place only by the 1970s and 1980s. The lab had to be relocated to its present venue.

The establishment has developed core expertise and technologies pertaining to unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems and combat aircraft systems, including flight control systems and aircraft simulators. The UAV systems consist of low-speed long-endurance type and high-speed aircraft. A few major projects were started under the UAV systems. Some of them are the missile target ULKA, mini remotely piloted vehicle Kapothaka, reusable target system Lakshya, reconnaissance-and-surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle Nishant, laser-guided kits for bombs, cruise vehicles, micro air vehicles and long-endurance UAVs. There have been studies on unmanned combat aerial vehicles as well.

The ADE has developed numerous critical systems and technologies, including the following:

The quadruplex redundant digital fly-by-wire flight control system for stabilisation of aircraft.

Cockpit display system

Engineering simulator for evaluation of flying and handling qualities of aircraft.

The Mini Bird and Actuator test rig for testing of flight control system hardware.

The digital avionics integration rig for testing of avionics systems and software.

Main areas of work

Unmanned aerial vehicles.

Low-speed long-endurance unmanned aircraft systems.

High speed UAVs, including target aircraft and cruise vehicles.

Combat aircraft systems.

Micro air vehicles.

Flight simulation.

Air weapon integration.

Aerial image exploitation.

UAVs are important lethal and non-lethal force multipliers in warfare. They are cost-effective alternatives to manned aircraft in specialised civilian roles. The military and civilian applications of UAVs include aerial reconnaissance and surveillance, weapon delivery platforms, cruise missiles, border monitoring, law enforcement, anti-smuggling and -terrorist operations, weather research, communications, disaster management, pollution monitoring and so on. The ADE has developed UAVs for diverse purposes.

The important divisions and centres of the Aeronautical Development Establishment and their main functions are indicated below.

Aerodynamics division: It deals with aerodynamic configuration design, performance evaluation and analysis, aerodynamic design using computational fluid dynamics and engineering methods, wind tunnel model design and testing, propeller design and development, and store separation simulation/testing.

Aircraft Structures Design Centre: Airframe design and analysis, centre of gravity management and layout design, aero elastic analysis, structural testing, mechanical design of actuators, electronic enclosures design, and payload housing design.

Propulsion Systems Division: Propulsion systems integration, fuel system management, air-intake design and analysis and booster integration.

Flight Control Computer Division: Development of onboard digital and analog flight control computers and associated interface systems for UAVs and manned aircrafts.

Flight Simulation Division: Development of flight simulator technology and flight simulation, establishment and operation of the pilot-in-loop simulation facilities, engineering simulation support for new aircraft projects, investigation of handling qualities and other problems related to current aircraft, applied research leading to the continuous growth of capabilities in the use of simulation techniques in design, development, and training.

Flight Control Test Systems: Development of systems and products for testing, verification, validation and certification of flight control systems of manned aircrafts using state-of art technologies.

Flight Test Telecommand and Tracking Division: Design of airborne and ground antennae, aircraft-mounted antenna pattern studies and ground control station and radar augmenters, etc.

Flight Mechanics and Control Engineering: Supply of state-of-the-art navigation, guidance flight and mission control systems for various UAV and weapon programs.

Software Engineering Division – LCA: Expertise to meet the present and future requirements of safety critical software for airborne systems. Post-flight analysis for safety critical software.

Software Engineering Division – UAV: Expertise to meet the present and future requirements of embedded software for mission critical airborne systems.

Mission Sensors Technology Division: Design and development of electro-optic systems to meet reconnaissance and surveillance requirements of the services and stabilised gimbal payload assemblies. (Gimbal is a device for hanging some object so that it should keep a horizontal and constant position, while the body from which it is suspended is in free motion, so that the motion of the supporting body is not communicated to it.)

Avionics Systems Division: Design and development of cockpit display systems for combat aircraft and air vehicles.

Assembly and Integration Centre for UAVs: Specialised task of avionics integration. This division contributes towards system integration, development flight trials, user training and field support, limited series production of UAVs and transfer of technology to the production agency.

Aerial Image Exploitation Laboratory: A Ground Image Exploitation System has been developed with state-of-the-art hardware and image exploitation software to acquire, store, retrieve, process, analyse, interpret, display and disseminate information from imagery obtained during UAV mission.

Composite Technology Centre: Polymer composite fabrication.

Quality and airworthiness: Quality control, quality assurance and reliability analysis of ADE projects. Airworthiness certification activities for UAVs.

Combat Aircraft Systems

Flight Simulation

It may be noted that many of the technologies available in ADE are useful for non-military purposes. Some of these are materials technology, electronics engineering fabrication, telemetry packages, and flight control systems.