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Now, SMEs help power India’s next generation unmanned aerial vehicle Rustom

Discussion in 'Indian Defence Industry' started by Osiris, Sep 25, 2010.

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  1. Osiris

    Osiris Major SENIOR MEMBER

    Apr 15, 2010
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    BANGALORE: Some years ago, SM Kapoor, executive director at Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), retired from the public sector organisation to try his hand at entrepreneurship.

    His firm Taneja Aerospace & Aviation, set up in 1994, that manufactures general aviation aircraft and offers maintenance, repair and overhaul services, has been selected to develop advanced critical system technologies for India’s next generation unmanned aerial vehicle, Rustom.

    This is the first time that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has roped in private sector entrepreneurs for critical work on advanced technologies such as airframes and avionics. Small and medium-sized enterprises such as Data Patterns India, Coimbatore’s Zephyr Aerospace and Taneja Aerospace and Aviation have contributed to the prototype for India’s unmanned aerial vehicle, Rustom that will fly by October.

    The UAV project is led by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), of the state-run DRDO. In November last year, the first prototype of the Rustom crashed during a test flight near the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border. As the country begins an ambitious $100-billion modernisation plan for its defence services by 2022, opportunities for private firms to bag critical outsourced contracts will increase.

    Industry watchers estimate that building UAVs for the Indian market alone will amount to a $2-billion opportunity for small and medium enterprises. “SMEs can play a huge role in projects such as UAVs and radars as subcontractors.â€

    Public sector units may step up outsourcing to SMEs

    Considering India’s huge defence needs, PSUs such as HAL and BEL will necessarily have to increase outsourcing to SMEs and develop risk and profit-sharing relationship with private firms,†says Dr KG Narayanan, former DRDO chief advisor and ADE director who described this as a win-win situation for defence agencies as well as private firms.
    “This is a technology initiative done at a cost of Rs 50 crore.

    ADE has just done the design and integration, while the rest has been outsourced to private firms. They have developed parts such as airframes and avionicsâ€, said a top ADE official who did not wish to be quoted.

    Companies such as Data Patterns India and Taneja Aerospace which are contributing to Rustom have started receiving high-end work from defence agencies.

    Chennai-based Data Patterns, run by S Rangarajan, has been accorded approval for design and development avionics — hardware and software for military aircraft and airborne systems by the Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification India (CEMILAC).

    Taneja Aerospace has struck a deal with Russian aircraft manufacturer IRKUT a few months ago to make UAVs.
    “There is a fresh requirement from ministry of defence to make around 500 UAVs, besides Rustom,†said a person familiar with the development.

    Other entrepreneurs at various startup firms such as Aurora Integrated System, Radianx Robotics and IdeaForge have also started making UAVs as small as humming birds which are being marketed to the defence forces.

    The Rustom prototype can fly at an altitude of 25,000 feet for 12-15 hours at a speed of 180 km/per hour. But the main drone, with a wingspan of 20 metres and weighing 1,800 kg, has a maximum speed of 225 km per hour and can operate at 30,000 feet altitude.
    In future, this prototype is expected to evolve into a larger unmanned planes, similar to Israel’s Heron and America’s Predator drones.

    India needs UAVs for surveillance of border areas, counter-insurgency and terror attacks. The combat version of the UAV can also be used for stealth aerial attacks.

    “It will be able to execute surveillance of the enemy territory up to a distance of 250 km and carry a variety of cameras and radars for surveillance,†said a DRDO official who did not wish to be quoted.

    Experts tracking the sector say that the components that small firms can make for UAVs include satellite communication antennas, fuel cells, radars, sensors, intelligent cameras, transmitters and engine cooling fans. “It includes providing electronics, mechanics, software, aerodynamic structures,†said Dr Narayanan.

    “These SMEs are very competent and today they are suppliers to Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), missiles and other major systems. I am sure the Rustom project is going to be successful,†he added.

    Now, SMEs help power India’s next generation unmanned aerial vehicle Rustom - The Economic Times
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