Rustom-2 Indigenous UAV

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    • India’s indigenous  Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE)Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) development programme (Rustom-II ) achieved an important milestone by reaching an altitude of 25,000 feet and an endurance of 10 hours.
      • With some delays in development, the Rustom-2 last year successfully flew for eight hours at an altitude of 16,000 feet.

    Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) 

    • It refers to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that flies at an altitude window of 10,000 to 30,000 feet for extended durations of time, typically 24 to 48 hours.

    About Rustom-2

    • It has been designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Bengaluru with production partners being Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Bharat Electronics Limited
    • It is also known as Tapas-BH (Tactical Airborne Platform for Aerial Surveillance-Beyond Horizon 201).
      • The UAV is actually named after Rustom Damania, a former professor at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru. 
        • In the 1980s, he led the National Aeronautical Laboratories’ light canard research aircraft (LCRA) program.
        • The LCRA platform and R&D provide the preliminary drive for DRDO ADE’s eventual Rustom-II design
    • Features: 
    • It is being developed to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles and is capable of carrying different combinations of advanced payload and capable of auto-landing among others.
    • It is being designed to acquire real-time, high-quality pictures and signal intelligence from fields of concern at medium to long ranges.
    • It technologically matches contemporary UAVs available and will also be cheaper than the imported ones.
    • Significance and need 
    • High endurance UAVs are a priority requirement for the armed forces especially in the standoff with China in Eastern Ladakh
    • The armed forces rely heavily on the Israeli Searcher and Heron drones and need more such UAVs.

    Other recent developments

    • Structural fire-fighting suit:
      • Structural fire-fighting suit developed by DRDO’s Centre for Fire, Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES), Delhi.
        • The suit weighing 2.8 kg is an ensemble of several layers, with the outer layer being the most durable and protecting against heat, flames, water, chemicals and also against cuts and abrasion.
        • The inner thermal layer provides insulation by creating air cushions and microclimate chambers.
        • Such a suit has been developed for the first time in the country and meets European standards while at the same time lowering import costs, 
      •  A special “fire entry suit” which can fire without significant fire for 150 seconds is also in the advanced stages of development.
        • The aim is to reduce the weight of the suit which is present at 25 kg and reduce the import content
    • The Services have embarked on a major upgrade project of the Heron UAVs. 
      • A separate proposal for 30 armed Predator drones, 10 for each Service, from the U.S. is also at advanced stages.

    Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

    • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, are aircraft either controlled by ‘pilots’ from the ground or increasingly, autonomously following a pre-programmed mission. 
    • There are three subsets of Unmanned Aircraft- Remotely Piloted Aircraft, Autonomous Aircraft and Model Aircraft.
    • India’s Drone Technology
      • The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a detect-and-destroy technology for drones, but it is not yet into mass production. 
      • The DRDO’s counter-drone System was deployed for VVIP protection at the Republic Day parades in 2020 and 2021
        • Developed in 2019, it has the capabilities for hardkill (destroying a drone with lasers) and softkill (jamming a drone’s signals). 
        • It has a 360° radar that can detect micro drones up to 4 km, and other sensors to do so within 2 km. Its softkill range is 3 km and its hardkill range is between 150 m and 1 km.
    • The Army is working upon its swarm technology, with 75 drones swarming together to destroy simulated targets.
    • Leased from other countries: In 2020, the Navy got two unarmed SeaGuardian Predator drones on lease from the US. The three forces want 30 of these UAVs between them.

    Drone management in India

    • The Union government approved a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and drone components.
      • An allocation of Rs 120 crore spread over three financial years has been approved for it.
    • Drone Rules, 2021 
      • Eased the regulation of drone operations in India by reducing the number of forms to be filled to operate them from 25 to five 
      • Decreasing the types of fees charged from the operator from 72 to four

    Source: TH