Hyderabad-based Cyient Solutions and Systems (CSS), a 51-49 percent joint venture company between engineering, manufacturing, geospatial, digital, networks company Cyient and Israel’s Blue Bird, launched at Aero India in Bangalore an electric mini WanderB vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial system (UAS). The UAS covers a longer distance than SpyLite, already delivered to the army in November. The VTOL has an extra battery to ensure extended distance operations for low-intensity conflicts addressed by the paramilitary, Sanjay Sharma, vice president and business head of CSS, told AIN.
WanderB is specially optimized for covert, “over-the-hill” operations, supporting extensive day and night intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, explained Sharma. It has an operational availability of 2.5 hours and a mission range of 50 km (extendable up to 80 km).
The Indian army selected the CSS SpyLite mini UAS for high-altitude aerial surveillance last year. According to CSS, SpyLite was the only one among four bidders that met end-user requirements to conduct real-time surveillance and target acquisition at very high altitude and in extreme weather conditions of up to minus 20 degrees C. Sharma sees large orders in the offing.
India is expected to spend around $750 million on UASs in the next few years. While the current military inventory of Israeli Searchers and Herons is effective, those UAS are not just highly priced but also require a huge operational infrastructure and manpower resource, both at a premium. “We see an advantage for tactical and not medium-altitude long-endurance [MALE] or high-altitude long-endurance [HALE] systems. Ours requires no runway and has an autonomous program,” added Sharma.
CSS is also in discussions with the Indian Navy and Coast Guard for the 32Kg ThunderB with an endurance of 24 hours and 150 km range. Draft specifications are expected to be drawn out by March. The army, too, is looking at it in big numbers. The dual-hybrid ThunderB VTOL is capable of taking off vertically from a very small ground clearing or a small marine vessel by using its quad vertical electric motors, transition to a level flight powered by its long-endurance horizontal fuel-injection engine, and transitioning back to a precise, vertical landing after completing its operational mission, requiring a much smaller logistical footprint than when using standard launch and recovery systems. This capability is achieved by adding a VTOL kit comprising of two booms, with four vertical electrical motors, connected under the ThunderB’s wings.
The new-generation 2 Kg MicroB is useful for a convoy on the move, pushing the envelope in the Micro-UAS niche by providing an endurance of up to 2.5 hours, and advanced communications capable controlling the MicroB up to a range of 10 Km, providing airborne data relay and performing “Hot Swap” while transmitting HD quality imagery. It is also being looked at by the Indian army, AIN has learned.
Plans to part-manufacture SpyLite and WanderB are expected by April next year. According to Sharma, the first stage of the project that included integration of the Spylite system in India has been completed. The second phase includes “transfer of technology for manufacturing the entire system out of our facility.” That too, will be done in phases. The company has already identified suppliers for parachutes, launchers, structures, and controls. Training has also been carried out for seven people in Israel who will in turn train more in India. “We will have at least 60 percent coverage [the Indian government specifies 50 percent],” said Sharma.