Indian Eyes On Solar Powered UAVs

After launching development of stealth UCAVs (unmanned combat aerial vehicles), India is now also looking at designing solar-powered spy drones which can cruise in the sky for several days at a time.

The high-altitude, long endurance (HALE) solar-powered UAV will not just reduce Indian military's carbon footprint but more importantly provide a cost-effective and flexible 24x7 ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) platform akin to "a pseudo-satellite" orbiting closer to the ground.

"Yes, Army and IAF have asked us to develop the solar-powered HALE UAV. Initial work is in progress for such a drone which can undertake a 15-day continuous flight over 30,000-feet," DRDO's chief controller R&D (aeronautics) Dr Prahlada told TOI.

The drone will harvest solar energy during the day, storing it in fuel cells to provide power for electric motors for night flying. "Solar efficiency is low but we are looking at a payload of around 50 kg (sensors, cameras etc). We will seek some collaboration from either US or European companies," said Dr Prahlada.

This comes at a time when several international aviation majors are doing cutting-edge research on solar UAVs. Boeing, for instance, is developing a UAV with a 400-feet wingspan, called Solar Eagle, which can operate continuously for an astonishing five years. It is being described as a "zero-maintenance, launch-and-leave UAV".

With remotely-piloted spy as well as combat drones being seen as major force-multipliers or game-changers in modern-day warfare, DRDO has launched a series of UAV programmes for Indian armed forces, which have largely depended on Israeli drones like Searchers and Herons till now.

As was first reported by TOI recently, this includes the secretive AURA (autonomous unmanned research aircraft) programme to develop UCAVs capable of firing missiles, bombs and PGMs (precision-guided munitions).

The Cabinet Committee on Security has also now cleared a Rs 1,500 crore DRDO project to develop the Rustom-H MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) drone, capable of operating for 24 hours with a 350-kg payload. "Its first flight will take place in two years," said Dr Prahlada.

Then, of course,
there is the smaller Rustom-I drone, with an 8-12 hour endurance and a 100-kg payload, as well as the already-developed Nishant UAV, which has a 4.5 hour endurance level.

Army, in fact, has projected a requirement of seven "troops" (akin to squadrons) of Rustom drones. As for Nishants, Dr Prahlada said, "Army has already inducted four such drones, which can be launched from hydro-pneumatic launchers without the need of runways, while eight more are being manufactured."

"Nishants can carry electro-optical, electronic intelligence and communication intelligence payloads. Since they can also be used for counter-insurgency operations, the home ministry has also expressed interest in seeing their operations," he added.

With DRDO working on the entire spectrum ranging from hand-held mini to full-fledged combat drones, a dedicated aeronautical test range from them is also coming up at Challakere, around 220 km from Bangalore. "It will be fully operational in two years," he said.


P.F.S. said...

Great News From the Pentagon Clean Fuel Energy From the Sun July 19, 2011
In Hawaii The Department of Defense will start to cover its Military
Family Housing with Solar Energy. This will greatly help stop the need
for Oil in the Hawaii Islands. This is just the start to the D.O.D.
reducing its 4 billion dollar need for Dirty Energy. From now on the
D.O.D. will look to Renewable Energy, Clean Energy. The Hawaiian
Islands will see the Largest Solar covered homes and housing Roofs in
the World 6,000 units. Thanks to William Lynn Deputy Secretary of the Defense and
Steven Chu Secretary of Energy and to many others. The D.O.D.
has some 300,000 building the day will come when all will be powered by
Clean Energy. i can not thank all that made this happen enough.
GOD Bless
United We Stand In GOD We Will Always Trust
Story By
The Lord's Little Helper
Paul Felix Schott

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