India combat drone development not dead yet

Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) developed Tapas (Rustom-2) Medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on 7th November last year took off on GPS-SBAS based auto mode successfully. GPS-aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) was utilized for augmenting the accuracy of the GPS and they’re by accomplishing safe auto takeoff. Auto-take offs are one of the primary requirements of the TAPAS MALE UAV.

Rustom-1 other UAV of DRDO has also successfully tested with GPS-SBAS based auto mode and both UAVs can perform auto takeoffs Now. The take-off and landing of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) are often the most critical and accident-prone portion of its mission. This potential hazard coupled with the time and resources necessary to train a remote UAV pilot makes it desirable to have autonomous take-off and landing capabilities for UAVs.

Tapas has demonstrated 8 hours of endurance and 250 kilometers of range and 15000 ft of altitude using GAGAN. Rustom-I has demonstrated 10 hours of endurance and a long-range of 220km. Tapas is expected to achieve a height of 26000 feet and an endurance of 18 hours in coming trials this year. Tapas is presently being powered by a 180 HP Austro E4 engine, replacing the 115 HP Rotax engines.

Tapas is still overweight by 260kgs and presently engineers are optimizing the design to shed weight before the last 2 prototypes enter the flight testing phase. DRDO will also be building 5 Production-ready Tapas UAV to be supplied for User trials by the Tri-service. Indian Army will be getting 3 and 1 each for the Air force and Navy. DRDO is expecting a major chuck of orders coming from the Indian Army, while the Air force and Navy will give smaller orders.

Tapas is capable of carrying different combinations of payloads depending on the mission objectives including synthetic aperture radar, electronic intelligence systems, and situational awareness systems.

It has a satellite communication link to relay situation in the battle theatre on a real-time basis. It is expected that the Army, Air force, and Navy will choose different payloads as per their requirements when it enters production after the completion of User trials.

Production Tapas will have an endurance of more than 24 hours and it can operate up to an altitude of 35,000 feet above mean sea level. TAPAS- has a length of 9.5 meters, a wingspan of more than 20 meters, and an empty weight of 1,800kg. Its maximum airborne cruise speed is 225kph. DRDO also has plans to equip them with Anti-Tank and Anti-Armor missiles in near future.

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