|Indian Eagle (previously Imperial Eagle), a mini air vehicle, during one of its demonstration flights. (Below) members of India's MAV club.|
By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: Indian security agencies including the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF) and the National Security Guards (NSG) are likely to have small wings of micro and mini air vehicles (MAVs) under their commands soon. Developed jointly by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), these unmanned desi MAVs will soon get on to a mass production mode at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) facilities. HAL is expected to sign an MoU with ADE and NAL on transfer of technology (ToT) to manufacture custom-built MAVs.
Under a 2008 programme sanctioned with an initial seed money of Rs 20 crore, the ADE-NAL combo developed three micro air vehicles namely Black Kite, Golden Hawk and Pushpak. The team also developed two mini air vehicles, Indian Eagle (previously Imperial Eagle) and Sly Bird (see box). In the last six years, these MAVs underwent development trials demonstrating their capabilities. Each MAV, including the ground support systems, is expected to cost between Rs 5-10 lakhs depending upon their configuration.
In an exclusive interview to Express, V S Chandrashekar, Associate Director, ADE, said that the MAVs offer great advantages for undertaking security missions. "They are compact, man-portable (can be carried in a backpack with just two persons required for operation), easy to unpack and can be deployed within 10-15 minutes. They are difficult to be detected and very effective for close range and low-level surveillance," Chandrashekar, who holds the rank of an Outstanding Scientist in ADE, said.
In addition to CRPF, NSG and BSF, some of the state police agencies also have shown interest in deploying these systems. "Our teams have been giving functional demonstration of the MAVs to these agencies. The ownership cost of these MAVs is significantly less compared to the bigger unmanned aerial vehicles. Thus multiple vehicles could be deployed for completing a mission. Police teams can fly these MAVs over urban populace and assess issues of safety and collateral damage during accidents or riots. The advanced data helps to plan missions before mass deployment of forces," Chandrashekar said.
To a specific query whether these MAVs can be seen in armed roles in future, the top scientist said that the days are not far off when these systems carry miniature lethal payloads. "Definitely, these can get deployed for creating nuisance in the operational environment by making critical systems inoperative by jamming and interference. Kamikaze missions (aerial attacks) are also possible with the MAVs," he said.
THE MAV CLUB: MAVs -- Golden Hawk, Black Kite and Pushpak -- are in the 300 mm class. They weigh about 300 to 450 gms and have an endurance of 20 to 30 minutes. At about 20 knots cruise speed it has a range of 1 km and can climb to a ceiling altitude of 100 metres. They carry a fixed daylight camera.
Indian Eagle and Slybird are slightly bigger MAVs and weigh about 3.5 kgs with an endurance of 50 to 60 minutes. At about 20 knots cruise speed it has a range of 10 km and can climb to a ceiling altitude of 300 metres. They carry gimbal-mounted daylight or infra-red camera.
These MAVs are hand-launched and possess fully autonomous cruise abilities using waypoint navigation. They are recovered by soft belly-landing and the entire mission is monitored using Toughbook-based Ground Control Station, where image exploitation algorithms are processed in real-time.
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