India’s own medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAS has experienced another delay, with first flight now expected toward the end of next year. A senior official from the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) told AIN that the Rustom-2 project has suffered from lack of access to technology for sensors and engines. “Requirements for ISR are huge in India, given threats from the border. However, Hale, micro and nano UAVs require powerful algorithms. That is where we require help,” added V.S. Chandra Shekhar, associate director of the DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE).
Shekhar said that taxi trials of the Rustom-2 are now scheduled for the middle of next year. The Indian Army has ordered 77. While government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics and Bharat Electronics will be taking the lead in manufacturing, the DRDO is also considering opening it to the private sector, Shekhar told AIN.
The Rustom-2 takes off and lands on a conventional undercarriage, unlike the Nishant UAV that DRDO previously designed, which is rail-launched from a truck. It has a wingspan of 21 meters (nearly 70 feet), an endurance of more than 24 hours and a payload of 350 kg (840 pounds). In late August, Avinash Chander, scientific advisor to the defense minister, said that within a couple of months the DRDO would test-fire precision-guided munitions (PGMs) that can be launched from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as the Rustom-2. However, Shekhar told AIN, work had not started on PGMs that remained “classified.”
India’s armed forces are currently flying the IAI Heron Male UAS, as well as the smaller Searcher tactical UAS. It was previously reported that the Rustom 2 would carry Israeli sensors.