Indian army has called for robust military-grade drones for deployment at high-altitude zones. This is significant as the army has well-defined the scale of technological components which can withstand the rigours of a complex operational environment.
The overall specification marks much broader capabilities which must embrace battlefield reconnaissance, goal positioning, illuminating, communication relay, and battle harm evaluation. Possibly, as the HAL official explained, “It could be and as a superb accomplice for tanks, infantry combating autos, and artillery.”
A Request for Information (RFI) outlines the requirement which was issued in 2022 under the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020. The RFI clearly states the indigenous content (IC) of at least 50% on a cost basis of the base contract of the final equipment.
The major challenge remains for achieving high-altitude operational capabilities in mountainous areas spread across the heavy wind and unpredictable weather. Especially in the case of logistics drones, the demand for the higher ceiling and extreme operating temperature ranges (-35 to 55 ºC) calls for a fully autonomous unmanned vehicle (UAV).
Drones challenge: RUAV-200
The Indian army specified it as a Rotary UAV (RUAV) with a fuel engine. As per details under the Request for Proposal (RFP), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) further clarifies the 163 LD must have the capability to launch from an altitude not less than 4000 m Above Mean Sea Level-AMSL). In addition, another 200 LD Medium Altitude must be capable of launching from an altitude not less than 3000 m AMSL in the Buy (Indian) category under Emergency Procurement through Fast Track Procedure.
Lately, Indian public sector defence entity, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and IIT Kanpur have come with the Rotary UAV (RUAV)-200. The HAL claimed to develop it within the timeframe, however, can it deliver the stringent requirement as outlined?
RUAV-200 is a coaxial, rotary-wing, fuel-engine UAV, and is designed as an LD (HA). For RUAV-200, HAL has also partnered with DRDO alongside IIT Kanpur.
Firstly, according to the information, the RUV -200 will have a max take-off weight of 200 Kg and an endurance of 3 hours. In terms of operational parameters, it has an operating temperature range between -35 to 55 ºC.
The RUAV mounts an electro-optical day/night camera for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.
One of the key elements of the RUAV is the proven ability to carry a payload capacity of 40 Kgs and a max range of 400 Km with a service ceiling of 6000 m in high-altitude terrain. However, as per the RFP, the payloads include broad specifications, which would include medical supplies, equipment spares, military equipment, and ammunition. There is not much clarity if the HAL has incorporated such elements in an autonomous mode.
The RUAV can achieve a 100kmph speed which is important in covering wide terrain in a shorter time.
Reports suggest that the propulsion system for RUAV-200 is defined as an endurance of 180 minutes, having 52 kg of Dry weight which can have a peak energy output of 34 KW and steady energy output of 30 KW.
In addition, the HAL is also working on a plan to convert it into armed drones with next-generation network-centric capabilities which it has gathered sufficient technical know-how over the years.
As per the information from HAL, the RUAV-200 will have its first flight by June 2022 and the design has been fine-tuned for high-altitude operations.
With combat firepower and the futuristic role of a potential alignment with machine weapons or anti-tank missiles, air-to-surface missiles it is going to prove the industrial capability of achieving such military grade-high performance UAVs.