New Delhi: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) earlier this year tested the Rustom-2 medium altitude long endurance indigenous prototype drone.

It achieved 8 hours of flying at an altitude of 16,000 feet at Aeronautical Test Range Chitradurga in Karnataka.

Amidst face-off with China, the importance of Rustom-2 in India’s arsenal 

Depending on the mission objectives, Rustom-2 is capable of carrying different combinations of payloads, which includes electronic intelligence systems, situational awareness systems and also synthetic aperture radar.

The prototype is expected to achieve a height of 26,000 feet and an endurance of 18 hours by the end of 2020. On Friday after test flying for 8 hours, Rustom-2 had one hour of fuel remaining. The test was conducted at the Challakere aeronautical test range in Chitradurga.

The development comes at a time of the Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The PLA has the Wing Loong II armed drones. It may be recalled that four of these were given to Pakistan to protect the CPEC corridor as well as the Gwadar Port.

Last month, the three services came to a conclusion that India should opt for a weaponised drone. It was decided that India should have the weaponised MQ-9B Sky Guardian drone from the United States.

Further India will also upgrade its existing Heron fleet with satellite communications action capability. This would enhance its range as well as the surveillance capabilities amidst the military standoff with China at Ladakh.

The MQ-9B has a 40 hour endurance with a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet. It also has a payload capacity of over 2.5 tonnes, which includes air to surface missiles and laser guided bombs.

In addition to this India has asked Israel to upgrade its existing Heron medium altitude, long endurance surveillance drone by upgrading its communication skills. This would include fitting the drone with a satellite package. This would ensure that the drone is linked with the satellite and the information is sent on a real time basis.

These would be crucial considering the fact that the People's Liberation Army has deployed unmanned devices in large capacities in the Ladakh theatre. Further the PLA has also deployed sensors and surveillance cameras which provide advance warnings.

The upgrade to the Heron will allow it to conduct long range surveillance without the fear of losing contact with the base. This upgrade programme was approved by the Defence Ministry last month.