The indigenous Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) development programme by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has crossed a milestone by reaching an altitude of 25,000 feet and an endurance of 10 hours, Secretary R&D and DRDO Chairman Dr. Sateesh Reddy said.
Within two months, we will demonstrate an altitude of 30,000 feet and 18 hours endurance meeting the requirements of the Services, said Dr. Tessy Thomas, Director General (Aeronautical Systems), DRDO.
It has advanced capabilities and meets the requirements of the three Services, Dr. Thomas said. Once the capabilities are demonstrated in two months, it should be ready to be handed to the Services. A programme for a more capable High Altitude Long Range (HALE) UAV is also in the works, Dr. Thomas said.
It technologically matches contemporary UAVs available and will also be cheaper than the imported ones, officials said. With some delays in development, the Rustom-2 last year successfully flew for eight hours at an altitude of 16,000 feet.
It has been designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Bengaluru with production partners being the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and the Bharat Electronics Limited. It is being developed to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles and is capable of carrying different combinations of advanced payload and capable of auto landing among others.
High endurance UAVs are a priority requirement for the armed forces especially in the standoff with China in Eastern Ladakh. The armed forces rely heavily on the Israeli Searcher and Heron drones and need more such UAVs.
The Services have embarked on a major upgrade project of the Heron UAVs. A separate proposal for 30 armed Predator drones, 10 for each Service, from the U.S. is also at advanced stages.
Structural fire-fighting suit
On Tuesday, among several systems Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had handed to the Home Ministry over a structural fire-fighting suit developed by DRDO’s Centre for Fire, Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES), Delhi.
The suit weighing 2.8 kg is an ensemble of several layers, with the outer layer being the most durable and protects against heat, flames, water, chemicals and also against cuts and abrasion, according to the DRDO. The inner thermal layer provides insulation by creating air cushions and micro climate chambers.
Such a suit has been developed for the first time in the country and meets European standards while at the same time lowering import costs, said Dr. Prasun Roy from CFEES who was involved in the development.
Dr. Roy said a special “fire entry suit” which can without significant fire for 150 seconds is also in the advanced stages of development. The aim is to reduce the weight of the suit which is present at 25 kg and reduce the import content, he said.