Rustom-II medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE)
ADE is a Bengaluru-based Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) lab working on unmanned platforms and subsonic cruise missiles. Rustom-II (also known as Rustom-H and TAPAS 201 - Tactical Advanced platform for Aerial Surveillance) Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE), when inducted into the armed forces, will undertake surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The major surveillance payloads that are now being flown are electronic intelligence (ELINT ), communications intelligence (COMINT), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and long\medium range electro optical (EO) systems.
The vehicle is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV, with an AUW of 2100 Kgs, length of 9.5m, wing span 20.6. The UAV can fly at a maximum speed of 225km/hr with an endurance for up to 24 hours. Controlled through LOS up to 100km. Beyond 100km the vehicle can be controlled through SATCOM. First time 2.1 Tonne UAV design and certification in the country. Critical technologies to design and certify are, Composite technology, Fly-by-wire technology, Command and data link, First time GCS certification, Retractable undercarriage and ATOL technology.
Though carrying the same name as a fearsome Persian warrior, the MALE UAV is actually named in honour of Rustom Damania, a former professor of Indian Institute of Science IISc, Bangalore, who led the National Aeronautical Laboratories' light canard research aircraft LCRA project in the 1980s. The LCRA platform and R&D provides the initial thrust for DRDO ADE's eventual 1,100-1,800 kg Rustom-II design, which aims for a maximum altitude of 35-40,000 feet and a range of 300 km/ 250 miles. Being developed by the DRDO for the three defence services, the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force it will experience substantial structural and engine changes and will eventually replace/supplement the Israeli Heron/Searcher UAVs in service with the Indian armed forces.
Rustom has an overall wingspan of 20 metres and will be launched by the conventional method and not the launcher as in the case of the Lakshya and Nishant. Rustom will be able to peer into enemy territory up to a distance of 250km and carry a variety of sensors for surveillance activities
Rustom II is being developed for Army, Air Force and Navy, to operate at medium to long ranges to gather real time, high quality imagery and signal intelligence from areas of interest. HAL is the production agency and is investing Rs. 210 Cr as risk sharing partner. Indian Army is the major stakeholder in the Rustom-II mission with a requirement for 60 platforms, followed by the Indian Air Force (12) and the Indian Navy (four).
HAL signed an MoU with ADE for Co-operation with ADE for Design & Development and production of Rustom II. During Aero India 2015, a memorandum of understanding between DRDO, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) was signed for the productionization of the Rustom-II. HAL will be the lead integrator for the Rustom-II with parts built by private players and BEL will supply the ground control systems for the same. Taneja Aerospace and Aviation Limited (TAAL) incidentally has built the fuselage of existing Rustom-II prototypes. The all critical datalinks for the Rustom-II have been developed by DRDO's Defence Electronics Application Laboratory, Dehradun. In the future the Rustom-II will feature indigenous engines in the 165-210 HP class currently being developed by DRDO's Vehicles Research and Development Establishment in partnership with Tech Mahindra.
A flight clearance note for Rustom II (AF3) was given on 15 November 2016, and for Rustom II (AF4) on 30 August 2017. The first flight II (AF3) for Rustom was carried out on 16 November 2016 and for Rustom II (AF 4), on 31 August 2017. Heralding a new era in the indigenous development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), DRDO November 17, 2016 successfully carried out the maiden flight of TAPAS 201 (RUSTOM – II), a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV. The test flight took place from Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), Chitradurga, 250 km from Bangalore which is a newly developed flight test range for the testing of UAVs and manned aircraft. The flight accomplished the main objectives of proving the flying platform, such as take-off, bank, level flight and landing etc.
TAPAS 201, the MALE UAV has been designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the Bangalore-based premier lab of DRDO with HAL-BEL as the production partners. The UAV weighing two tonnes was put into air by a dedicated team of young scientists of DRDO. It was piloted (external and internal) by the pilots from the Armed Forces. It is also the first R&D prototype UAV which has undergone certification and qualification for the first flight from the Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) and Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA).
TAPAS 201, a multi-mission UAV was developed to carry out the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) roles for the three Armed Forces with an endurance of 24 hours. It is capable to carry different combinations 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) to perform missions during day and night.
It is noteworthy that the development of UAV immensely contributes towards the Make-in-India initiative as many critical systems such as airframe, landing gear, flight control and avionics sub-systems are being developed in India with the collaboration of private industries. Defence Electronics Application Laboratory (DEAL) of DRDO has developed the data link for the UAV. Rustom- II will undergo further trials for validating the design parameters, before going for User Validation Trials.
CVRDE designed and developed the indigenous Landing Gear for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Rustom II of 2.0 tonne class for the first time in the country. The Landing gear fitted in Rustom II has undergone low speed taxi trial and high speed taxi trial at Chitradurga, Karnataka. The maiden flight of Rustom II with CVRDE developed landing gear was successfully carried out on August 2, 2018 in the presence of Mr V Ashok Rangan, Programme Director, Rustom II, ADE, Dr V Balamurugan, Addl Director, and Shri D K Datta, Addl. Director (RG-Design).
This Medium-Altitude Long Endurance UAV had a successful test flight in 2019 at Chalakere in Chitradurga district of Karnataka. An upgraded version of Rustom-II (Tapas) - the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) - being developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), was ready to take to the skies in early 2020. The new platform (AF-6A) being readied for its first flight will be seventh one from Rustom-II flight line. The sixth prototype (AF-6) of Rustom-II had crashed near the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) in Chalakere (Chitradurga district, Karnataka) on September 17, 2019. (AF stands for air frame.).
It is confirmed that the crash was due to the momentary and simultaneous link loss that prompted the UAV to enter into the ‘return home mode.’ The platform also had to encounter a rough patch of turbulence beyond the capacity of control law, resulting in the crash. The behaviour of the UAV is being claimed to have been on the expected lines and as per the design parameters. The sensor data was available for the ground station almost till its touchdown\crash.
The seventh platform (AF-6A) from Rustom-II flight line set to undertake its maiden flight carries many new features. From AF-5 prototype onwards (February 2018), Rustom-II is being powered by a 180 HP Austro engine, replacing the 115 HP Rotax engine. Among the new features embedded into the system are: a solid state relay-based low weight power distribution unit; an indigenous inertial navigation system (INS) developed by RCI, Hyderabad; Lithium ion batteries and satellite communication (SATCOM) link.
Rustom-2 has been under development since 2011, even after realizing multiple airframes and Design Validation Flights (DVF) by 2017, there had been delays to meet the User’s requirements. As per CAG report of 2018, the non-availability of critical UAV system has adversely affected the aerial surveillance capability of the Indian Army.
Rustom-II project has been sanctioned along with aeronautics test range development. The Rustom–II will be capable of flying at 35000 ft altitude, having an endurance of above 24 hrs and a payload capacity of 350 kg. The new platform being readied for first flight (AF-6A) was the seventh from the Rustom-2 flight line. The sixth prototype (AF-6) of Rustom 2 crashed near the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) at Chalakere (Chitradurga District, Karnataka) on 17 September 2019. It was later confirmed that the accident was caused by a transient and simultaneous link loss to the UAV. The platform was also confronted with a rough patch of turbulence beyond the capacity of the control law. The behavior of UAVs is claimed to be according to the expected lines and design parameters. Sensor data was available to the ground station almost until its touchdown \ crash.
Aeronautical Development (ADE), DRDO, Bangalore, Karnataka, was responsible for the design and development of the Rustam-2 UAV. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was the lead integrator, while Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) developed the ground control station for the UAV. The fuselage of the drone was built by Taneja Aerospace & Aviation, an Indian-based manufacturer of aircraft structural assemblies. The wind tunnel test for Rustom-2 was done by Aarav Unmanned System, which is also based in India.
The Rustom-II MALE drone is based on the Rustom-H unmanned combat air vehicle and features light airframes. It has a length of 9.5 meters and an empty weight of 1,800 kg. It is equipped with mid-set, high aspect ratio wings spanning 20.6 meters. The tail section is configured with a high-mounted horizontal tailplane with a traditional T-type vertical stabilizer. The UAV’s tri-cycle landing gear allows it to perform safe take-off and landing maneuvers on safe surfaces. The center of gravity has a single front wheel and two single-wheel main gears.
The Rustom-2 UAV includes a data link developed by Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) Defense Electronic Application Laboratory (DEL) that transmits ISR data, metaphors, and video collected by payload at its ground control station in a timely manner. It can fly in autonomous or manual mode. The onboard flight control system allows UAVs to execute missions autonomously using waypoint navigation. The manual mode of operation is performed by an operator of the ground control station.
Rustom-II MALE Power for unmanned aerial vehicles comes from two NPO Saturn 36MT turboprop engines mounted under the wings. Each engine generates a thrust of 450 kg-forces (kg) and is mated to a three-blade propeller to provide increased maneuverability. The UAV can fly at a maximum speed of 225 km / h and can bear up to 24 hours. It has the capability to operate on the line of sight range of 250 km. The drone has a maximum flight of 35,000 feet above sea level.
Though not touted as such, the Rustom can also function as a killer drone. All three defence services have shown interest in acquiring the Rustom, with the army keen to start using seven troops (six to eight UAVs each) of them. According to news reports, the Rustom has reached the government’s Cabinet Committee on Security for final financial approval. Its first prototype crashed during a test flight in 2019, but another ws said to be ready for tests by the end of the year 2020.