In 2007 we learnt about the programme AURA for an autonomous unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), being developed by the DRDO for the Indian Air Force. The task of designing had been entrusted to the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). Whilst the details remain classified, the AURA is planned to be a stealth UCAV, capable of releasing missiles, bombs and precision –guided munitions.
Similarly the DRDO initiated an ambitious Rs 500-cr unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) programme towards addressing Indian Army’s requirement for various types of UGVs over the next 10 years.
The programme for the development of an autonomous underwater vehicle for the Indian Navy is by far the oldest in execution . The vehicle can lay mines, launch missiles, take pictures without the need of any human being and return to the base as per instructions given through satellite. Naval Science and Technology Laboratory (NSTL), a wing of DRDO, has developed the 400-kg vehicle, which can carry out the operations on its own moving 3-4 metre below water.
UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES
Rustom-1 The success of the maiden test flight of its Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV Rustom-1 on 16th October 2010 was ADE’s achievement. It flew for 12 minutes after taking off despite inclement weather and landed successfully meeting all its objectives. Rustom-1 is an indigenous, all-weather UAV and is designed to operate at medium to long ranges and gather near real time, high quality imagery and signals intelligence from areas of interest. Rustom-1 is the first UAV to have conventional take-off and landing capability in India. Subsequently, five successful flights have taken place, two in May 2011 and three in November 2011. R1-3 aircraft with Electro-optic payload is being tested for flight. Latest reports indicate that development trials have been completed. The system originally planned to be developed, demonstrate and master certain key technologies required for such class of UAV is now ready to be used as a product.
A very significant technological success of ADE has been the development of Nishant – a multi-mission tactical UAV.
Nishant is a highly mobile, compact and easily deployable UAV, launched from a hydro-pneumatic launcher. It has all weather, day and night operational capability. It is designed to execute various missions such as day and night surveillance, battle field reconnaissance, artillery correction and target tracking and localization. Maintenance evaluation trials, EMI/EMC trials, DGQA evaluation have been completed. Seven weeks training to the maintenance crew and operations has been imparted by June –July 2011. Four aircraft systems and one ground support equipment are being handed over to Army. Produced by HAL and the system having been accepted by the users, it is being sought in numbers by paramilitary forces.
One of the major programmes undertaken by ADE is the design and development of Lakshya- the reusable aerial target system. Lakshya is a modern pilot-less target aircraft used for training of land or ship-based artillery crews and air defense pilots, engaged with the high speed aerial targets. Lakshya is launched from a zero-length launcher, enabling it to be launched from land or ship. The parachute recovery system allows it to be recovered safely on land or sea. Lakshya has been inducted into all the three armed forces and has been in continuous use for testing of various weapons in the services.
Lakshya 2 is a lead-in to advanced pilotless target aircraft (APTA).It has integrated digital flight control processor (IDFCP), autonomous flight capability, low level flight and firing of beyond visual range(BVR) missiles. In addition the other features are augmentation of Lakshya air vehicle with active repeater system for firing of BVR missiles, capability to fly two air vehicles simultaneously from single Ground Control System (GCS), automated test equipment (ATE) and improved visual augmentation on tow body. Trials for demonstration to IAF were conducted during 16-19th Sep 2011who have issued a letter of intent for the supply of 10 Lakshya-2 aircraft with micro turbo engines .
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.
NETRA is a light-weight, autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for surveillance and reconnaissance operations. Jointly developed by the DRDO’s Research & Development Establishment (R&DE), and IdeaForge, a Mumbai based private firm, NETRA is being recognized as a revolutionizing innovation especially in the realm of anti terrorist and counter insurgency operations.
Designed and built by a young team of scientists and engineers largely from India’s own academic institutions using lightweight carbon fiber composites, the machines allows for two people to carry the system to field locations. It flies by four high speed rotors which permit a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) and provide the power to soar through the skies.
• Two man-portable.
• Intelligent auto pilot with preflight & in-flight mission planning capability.
• Fully autonomous operation.
• In-built, fail safe features allow for return to base on communication loss or low battery.
• Auto Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL).
• GPS way point navigation and GPS hold with options for a dynamic change of flight parameters . • Capable of hovering or traversing through way points.
• Real time video from on board cameras with Pan Tilt and Zoom facility.
• Superior video output due to on-board gimbal and electronic stabilization.
• Noiseless electric motor propulsion.
• Ideal for deployment and recovery in confined areas of operation.
• Weight -1.5 KG
• Dimensions -90cms x 90 cms
• Navigation –Auto pilot based with dynamic mission planning.
• Battery –Compact Lithium Polymer • Payload capacity -200 gms
• Endurance – 30 minutes per battery charge • Battery change –Quick snap and extremely swappable.
• Range – 2.5 km line of sight (LOS)
• Payload –High resolution CCD camera with Pan/Tilt and zoom facility wireless video transmission NETRA UAV is designed to be used in hostage situations, border infiltration monitoring, law enforcement operations, search and rescue operations, disaster management and aerial photography. It can also be used in naxal-affected districts, in border locations across the country for surveillance, and for anti-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations in dense forested areas, where it can use its camera payloads to track human activity.
Performances so far indicate that it would successfully operate in urban quarters, in situations similar to that of the 2008 Mumbai attacks . With the civilian use of UAVs gaining popularity in India, IdeaForge, the company manufacturing the drone has given over 200 demonstrations to prospective buyers.
It was deployed by the local law enforcement systems during a political rally in Chandigarh. Gujrat police purchased two systems from IdeaForge and deployed them in July 2013 during the 136th Jagannath Rath Yatra, Ahemdabad became the first Indian city to use UAVs for crowd management by its own personnel.
Four NETRA UAVs were used in Uttarakhand by the National Disaster Response Force for locating people during the devastating floods, a first deployment in a disaster rescue operation. They were used on Kedarnath trail at Jungle Chatti & Gaurikund areas, where real-time monitoring of their video feed helped locate hundreds of survivors with precision. Cinema viewers witnessed an operational demonstration of NETRA in the hit movie 3 Idiots.
THE UNMANNED GROUND VEHICLE
Muntra The Muntra was conceived with the objective of surveillance of ground targets spread over widely dispersed conflict zones by using an unmanned vehicle. A tracked amphibious BMP II due to its rugged military construct was thus chosen for this task. The underlying principle was to conduct teleoperations whilst deploying over all types of terrains The system consists of an Unmanned Ground Vehicle ( UGV) for field surveillance ( Muntra S) and Base Vehicle ( Muntra B) to conduct tele-operations.
Salient features of Muntra
• Gear shift automatic Communication – Encrypted and anti jamming wireless links on retractable wireless mast
• Vision for tele-operation –day and night – mono and stereo
• Localization –Multiple modes
• Surveillance – Battle Surveillance Radar – Short range BFSR-SR
• Vision for surveillance –Day and night cameras
• Target ranging –Laser range finder
• Mast –Remotely retractable telescoping mast
• Software –open sources
• Power management –Tele operated APU –Battery health management system- Dynamic switching of loads
• Engine control- Electronic control- Engine health monitoring system- fail safe mechanism
• Ruggedisation – Military specifications
Remotely Operated Vehicle – ‘DAKSH’ A state-of-the-art Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) ‘DAKSH’, capable of being remotely controlled over a range of 500m line-of-sight (LOS) or up to three walls within buildings, is an invaluable asset in the hands of Bomb Disposal Units of the Army, Police and other Paramilitary Forces. ‘Daksh’ has been successfully developed in a very short time of 30 months from its inception to trials by R&DE(Engrs), Pune, a DRDO laboratory. The ROV is capable of being deployed both in urban as well as in cross-country terrain.
In an urban environment, ‘Daksh’ can be deployed within buildings and climb stairs for handling and extracting hazardous materials or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). It has an onboard shotgun for blasting though door locks as well as breaking the windshield or side glass panes of likely car bombs. It is further capable of towing a suspected vehicle away from a crowded area.
‘Daksh’ ROV can also be deployed in cross-country terrain, wherein additional broad tyres are fitted for traversing slushy and marshy stretches. It is capable of negotiating steep slopes besides roads and approaches to culverts. It can be deployed inside small culverts and drains to extract IEDs planted in these areas.
It has a robust manipulator arm having six degrees of freedom which can be extended so that IEDs planted under cars can be remotely removed. It has detachable grippers, special attachments and hooks for extracting different size and shapes of IEDs or other hazardous material. The manipulator arm is capable of handling various loads from distance. Electrically powered by special batteries, it can be utilized continuously for three hours before a recharge. It has multiple cameras on-board for aiding the operator to drive as well as pick and handle sensitive objects.
‘Daksh’ is driven from a Master Control Station (MCS) that has an Operator Console with switches and joysticks as well as a touch screen interface for remote control and guidance. The ROV and MCS are carried to site on a specially designed Carrier Vehicle.
Roles The primary role of ‘Daksh’ is handling of IEDs where firstly the suspected object is lifted and taken to an isolated safe area. ‘Daksh’ thereafter scans the object using a portable X-Ray device insitu such that the operator can view the contents within it. On positive conformation, ‘Daksh’ utilizes the onboard explosive based water jet disrupter to diffuse the IED.
In addition, ‘Daksh’ is capable of detecting the level of nuclear radiation contamination in any area and the source of leakage using a detachable Radiation Measurement and Automatic Control Unit (RADMAC).
‘Daksh’ can also be effectively used by industrial security forces for detection of leaked gases using a detachable Portable Gas Chromatograph (PGC) to survey chemically contaminated locations. Features
• Versatile reach extending below vehicles • Good payload lifting capability
• In-built brakes to stop the ROV in any position and slopes
• Electrically operated through compact rechargeable batteries
• Continuous operation for three-hours
• Wireless operation up to 500m LOS with optional fiber-optic control
• Multiple switchable cameras on-board
• Steep slope negotiation
• Stair climbing capability
• Manipulator Arm with Six Degrees of freedom
• Cameras on motorized pan-tilt platform with zoom and focus controls
• Towing capability for suspected vehicles • Low power, high intensity LED based illumination lamps • Open interface to connect different payloads as per mission
• Safety alarms provided during firing operations
• Weather-proof construction for outdoor applications
AUTONOMOUS UNDERWATER VEHICLE
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) are a new class of intelligent Underwater Vehicles, which operate without human supervision to undertake survey, surveillance, reconnaissance and similar missions in the underwater ocean environment which could revolutionize underwater exploration. Development of such vessels require interdisciplinary efforts in the fields of hydrodynamics, control & guidance, battery technologies, propulsion, materials, computation and miniature hardware, acoustic and radio communications and vision systems to operate in harsh underwater environment.
AUV development in India was pioneered at (Naval Science & Technological Laboratory) NSTL in the year 2003 by the demonstration of an AUV concept vehicle with a weight of 300 kgs. Currently, the laboratory is developing a Technology Demonstrator Heavy Weight AUV of 1500 kg weight capable of carrying a 500 kg payload with a depth rating of 400m reconfigurable for multi mission roles. The AUV can be used for various missions like intelligence, surveillance, mine mitigation, communication couriers and for target practice during naval exercises.
Prototype test vehicles were assembled and tested to demonstrate the vehicle capabilities. The tests demonstrated the ability of the vehicle to navigate through a set of geographical co – ordinates and surface at a target location, communicate to the base station on surfacing and reconfiguring its mission, hydrodynamic stability of the vehicle in various types of trajectories, and controllability of the vehicle. The NSTL AUV successfully underwent sea trials on 22 Dec 2010 off the coast of Visakhapatnam and demonstrated its capabilities in sea.
The unique feature of the NSTL AUV is its flat fish hydrodynamic shape. This makes the pressure hull independent of the hydrodynamic shape, making the vehicle highly flexible and versatile. The hydrodynamic characterization of the vehicle was technically complex due to the shape and slow speed of the vehicle. NSTL’s in-house expertise and facilities like High Speed Towing Tank, which is one of its kind in the country was extensively used to study the hydrodynamics of the vehicle. Other techniques like the wind tunnel testing supplemented by theoretical studies using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) techniques were used for hydrodynamic characterization of the vehicle. These studies enabled the design of the control surfaces, trajectory simulation and finalization of the vehicle configuration for the Prototype Test Vehicle.
In – house technologies already available with NSTL like the Mission Computer System (MCS), Integrated Instrumentation and Recording System (IIRS), Power Management System (PMS) and other electrical systems were adopted for the AUV.
Collaborations with academic institutions, other DRDO laboratories and industries were undertaken for development of technologies and for bringing industrial practices and standards from the project design stage, so that the time for transfer of technology to the industry can be minimized. R&D Engineers, Pune, a sister lab of the DRDO have developed a ship independent Launch and Recovery System of AUV. IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur, Andhra University Visakhapatnam and Gayatri Vidya Parishad College of Engineering, Visakhapatnam are the various academic institutions participating in the project. M/s ECIL are the industrial partners for the project.
NSTL has successfully leveraged its infrastructure experimental facilities and technology know how to mature into a development centre capable of developing multiple AUVs ranging from hand held slow speed AUVs to large AUVs of 12 tonnes capacity to assist in the entire gamut of maritime security from coastal and port defense to deep oceans.
The specifics contained in this report have been obtained from various sources. However, the most detailed inputs were provided by the PRO DRDO and by the IdeaForge ( for Netra). The Salute acknowledges the support provided by these institutions.