The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully completed the test flight of its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Rustom 2 drone at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka on Sunday. It is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone which belongs to a family of UAVs under development, the others being Rustom-1 and Rustom-H.
Rustom UAVs are being developed specifically for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. It can carry a variety of payloads like Medium Range Electro-Optic (MREO), Long Range Electro-Optic (LREO), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT) and Situational Awareness Payloads (SAP)
With the ability to fly up to an altitude of 22,000 feet and capable of remaining airborne for approximately 20 hours, Rustom 2 can transmit vital ISR data to the ground control station in real-time. The high definition images that the Rustom 2 can gather will give armed forces key information about the activities behind the enemy lines. Be it the information on terror training camps close to the border or troop deployments, the data sent by the drone will allow Indian forces to be ready for prompt action. MREO and LREO sensors are placed inside a modular payload under the nose for capturing imagery and video. The images relayed can significantly bolster India's preparedness to handle hostilities from across the border.
Rustom 2 can fly missions on manual as well as autonomous modes. The onboard way-point navigation system allows the drone to conduct missions autonomously. The two NPO Saturn MT turboprop engines are fitted under the wings and produce over 450 kilogram-force thrust each, said an Indian Express report.
Rustom is derived from the NAL's LCRA (Light Canard Research Aircraft) which was developed by a team under the leadership of late Prof Rustom Damania in the 1980s.
There are three variants in the family Rustom UAV drones developed by the DRDO:
Rustom-I: Tactical UAV with an endurance of 12 hours (based on NAL's LCRA which was inspired by Burt Rutan's Long-EZ).
Rustom-H: Larger UAV with a flight endurance of over 24 hours (completely different design from Rustom-1), higher range and service ceiling than Rustom-1.
Rustom-II: An unmanned combat air vehicle based on Rustom-H model. It is often compared with Predator drones by Indian scientists and media.