|With ATOL feature, Rustom-1 to have enhanced endurance & payload-carrying capability.|
By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: Defence scientists at the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) are closing in on enabling India's Rustom-1 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with the automatic take-off and landing (ATOL) capability. The ATOL configuration, to be demonstrated by end of this year, will increase the endurance and payload carrying capacity of the UAV.
Insiders linked to the project told Express that ATOL feature will add more teeth to the Rustom-1 while undertaking prolonged missions. "We will be able to carry more fuel for missions which require the UAV to be airborne for longer durations. Instead of more fuel, different type of payloads can be integrated on the UAV, which will give it an additional operational advantage. At present, we are in the process of evaluating some of the sensors required for the ATOL implementation. Extensive real time simulation has been initiated on the UAV flight simulator to develop and fine-tune the guidance and control algorithms," an official said.
ADE took up the Rustom-1 project in 2006 with the primary objective of converting a proven manned aircraft configuration into a UAV. The first flight of Rustom-1 was in 2010 and since then the lab has conducted over 30 flights with around Rs 40 crore already spent on the project.
"So far our work on Rustom-1 has resulted in the availability of a baseline system which can be considered for operational roles by the users. This system can also be developed into an efficient FTB (Flying Test Bed) which can be used as a platform for development and demonstration of some of the emerging technologies in UAV systems," he said.
While enhancing the performance envelope of the UAV, the total weight (also called as AUW or all-up weight) goes up due to the increased weight of fuel or payload. This results in increase in take-off/landing distances and speeds. "Beyond a point it becomes difficult for the external pilot to confidently handle the UAV during the take-off and landing phases. Thus the capability for ATOL is essential," the official added.
The Indian Army has evinced keen interest in considering Rustom-1 for operational roles. However, in addition to ATOL capability, the Army wants ADE to demonstrate features like range of operation, colour video datalink and payload combinations. "We have so far demonstrated conventional take-off and landing of the aircraft by an external pilot, who coordinates the events with the internal pilot who controls the UAV during its mission phase. We have already demonstrated endurance for extended hours and at medium altitudes. We are confident of matching the performance demonstrated by some of the other users," the official said.
ADE has also integrated the surveillance payload of proven Nishant UAV on Rustom-1 to demonstrate its utility as a short-range surveillance platform. They are hopeful of optimising the performance by utilising the space available in the aircraft to increase the endurance further. The scientists are also exploring the possibility of using Rustom-1 version for ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) missions as well.
Copyright@The New Indian Express
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