Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Unmanned aerial vehicle is an aircraft that flies without a human pilot aboard. These are commonly known as Drone, and are controlled by a ground based controller through a system of Communications between the UAV and the ground station. These can operate with different levels of autonomy either being remotely controlled by a human operator or autonomously by onboard computers.

The unmanned aerial vehicle originated mostly for military applications however its use has expanded to scientific recreational, commercial and other applications including peacekeeping and surveillance, product delivery, aerial photography, agriculture etc.

The Global market of of military UAV is dominated by the companies of USA and Israel. The top UAV manufacturers from United States are General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing. The Civilian UAV market is dominated by the Chinese companies.

The rise in the use of drones has safety and security implications. Interference in the air traffic can lead to collisions with other aircraft leading to accidents and injuries.

Further, there are issues related to malicious use of these drones by loading them with dangerous payloads such as explosives, chemical, radiological for biological hazards. UAVs can and also create cyber security risks and vulnerabilities. The government in many countries such as Ireland, Netherland, Canada, United States etc have made regulations for the recreational commercial and government use of UAVs.

Rustom Unmanned Aerial Vehicle developed by DRDO

  • Rustom is a medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle developed by DRDO for the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.
  • The design for Rustom UAV has been derived from National Aerospace Laboratories’ light canard research aircraft developed under the leadership of late Prof Rustom Damania.
  • It will replace the Heron UAVs of Indian armed forces.
  • Rustom UAV will be able to enter 250 km inside the enemy territory and can carry a variety of cameras and radars for surveillance.
  • Rustom-H variant is a multi altitude long endurance UAV that has twin engine for carrying out surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It will have the payload capacity of 350 kg.

    Variants of Rustom unmanned aerial vehicle

    • Rustom I tactical unmanned aerial vehicle with the endurance of 12 hours. The design of Rustom I will be based on National Aerospace Laboratories’ LCRA.
    • Rustom H will be a larger unmanned aerial vehicle having a flight endurance of more than 24 hours. The design will be different from Rustom I and will have comparatively higher range and service ceiling
    • Rustom II will be an unmanned combat aircraft based on the Rustom H model.

    Rustom 1

    • The first flight of this variant of the Rustom UAV took place on November 16, 2009, at Taneja Aerospace airfield. The taxiing and takeoff of Rustom UAV worked as planned, however, due to miss judgement in the measurement of altitude, the engine was switched off by the ground command due to which the UAV crashed.
    • Despite  the crash of the UAV, the DRDO stated: "The flight proved the functioning of a number of systems such as aerodynamics, redundant flight control, engine and datalink, which go a long way towards the development of a complex UAV."
    • On 15 October 2010, the second flight of Rustom 1 was conducted in the Taneja Aerospace airfield near Hosur. The test flight was successful and the Indian Army was impressed with this UAV. The Indian Army will use it as a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV.
    • On November 12, 2011, the fifth successful flight of Rustom 1 UAV took place in which it attend a speed of 190 km/h.
    • On 8 December 2011 Rustom 1 completed its 8th successful flight. This time Rustom one was flown with gimbal payload assembly that carried an infrared camera and daylight TV. The camera was able to take good quality pictures.
    • On May 8 2012, 14th successful flight of this UAV was conducted. The UAV attend height of about 3,500 metres above ground level.
    • In future, Rustom can be used as an unmanned combat aerial vehicle and can also carry warheads.
    • The UAV has several auto features such as GPS control Way Point Navigation and Get U Home features. In future, it can be used by all the three armed services viz. Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force.

    Rustom II

    • Rustom 2 is the medium altitude long endurance UAV designed for carrying out surveillance and reconnaissance missions for the Indian armed forces.
    • It can carry different combinations of Pale words including electronic intelligence systems, synthetic aperture radar, and situation awareness systems etc.
    • It has an endurance of 24 hours and it is similar to the American Predator drones.
    • On 25 February 2018, a successful test flight of Rustom 2 was carried out by DRDO at Aeronautical test range.

    Other Developments in the UAVs sector in India

    • DRDO is developing other unmanned aerial vehicles like DRDO Abhyas, DRDO AURA, DRDO Imperial eagle, DRDO Lakshya 1 and Lakshya 2, DRDO Netra, and DRDO Nishant for meeting the different specific needs of the Indian armed forces.
    • Other UAVs used by India include Gagan UAV from Israel, Pawan UAV, Heron, Harpy, Searcher, NAL Slybird, Dhaksha etc.
    • India is also planning to import surveillance Drone SeaGuardian unmanned aerial vehicle UAVs and Predator  Avenger UAVs from the US.
    • The first private sector manufacturing unit for the unmanned aerial vehicles was opened at Adani Aerospace Park, Hyderabad. It will develop Hermes 900 medium altitude long-endurance UAVs for the Indian and global markets.
    • The Adani Aerospace park woud initially develop carbon composite aerostructures for Hermes 900, followed by Hermes 480, catering to global markets.
    • In the civilian sector, e-commerce vendors such as Amazon, Uber, and Zomato etc., are planning to use unmanned aerial vehicles for delivery of their products.
    • The Government of India has brought ‘Drone regulations 1.0’ for the regulation of of unmanned aerial vehicles in India.
    • The Director General of Civil Aviation have defined five categories of drones namely Nano (less than or equal to 250 grams), micro, small, medium and large.
    • Except for the nano drones, other drones have to be registered and issued an Unique Identification number. Unmanned aircraft operator permit is required to be obtained from DGCA by the drone owners for flying them.

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