India’s first indigenous advanced drone to debut during Aero India next week

New Delhi: Next week will see the public launch of India’s first indigenous advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for strategic reconnaissance and surveillance. By June or July, a second indigenously armed drone is also expected to conduct its maiden flight test.

DRDO-developed TAPAS-BH (Tactical Aerial Platform for Advanced Surveillance-Beyond Horizon) drone will live stream the aerial and static display of several aircraft during the Aero-India show in Bengaluru. Thus far more than 180 flights have been registered on TAPAS-BH.

“TAPAS-BH will demonstrate its capabilities, which include operating at altitudes up to 28,000 feet with an endurance of over 18 hours. The Medium Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) requirements,” according to a Defense Ministry official quoted by TOI.

The Rustom-2 drone, also known as Tapas-BH, has a 20.6-metre wing span, a top speed of 225 kmph and a “command range” of 1,000 km via satellite-based communication. The military forces are currently preparing to conduct a formal user-trial evaluation of the UAV, which can also fly at night.

Then, according to a source, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics and other companies may start mass production.

According to reports, the smart anti-airfield weapon (SAAW) and anti-tank guided missile-capable Archer-NG (next generation) armed drones will undergo their maiden flight test between June and July.

Recent conflicts, such as those between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the current Russia-Ukraine conflict, have highlighted the operational utility of drones and AI-enabled drone swarms.

However, India has miles to go before it can sleep in terms of developing advanced drones. It currently imports Heron and Searcher-II drones from Israel, as well as MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones on lease.