In its new avatar, with structural changes and thrust on accountability, DRDO strives to push the boundaries. G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary DDR&D and Chairman DRDO has been responsible for much of the changes lately. In an exclusive interaction, Dr Reddy speaks with Manish Kumar Jha of BW Businessworld on the wide range of technological breakthroughs and innovations which are taking place in DRDO’s laboratories spread across India. He makes major announcement on critical technologies, including aero-engine for AMCA, Rustom-II, ATAGS, Light tank, Hypersonic system and Quantum breakthroughs

Manish K. Jha: A lot of focus is on developing MALE indigenous drones. In fact Prime Minster has spoken about it -- having such capability which could do credible ISR activities. We have also cancelled the import route of drones and instead given a push to our home grown R&D. DRDO’s Rustom has gone through some advanced stage trials with fantastic results, reaching 18000 feet. So where are we now and at what stage of development?

G Satheesh Reddy: We have made a lot of changes and modifications into the new version, Rustom II, and firstly, I would like to share a good news with you about the test we have done a day before. We have touched above 27500 feet altitude. So we have almost reached the target altitude. And, we are going to do some more trails for altitude & endurance. I'm sure in the next about one and a half months, we will be completing all the activities to meet the required parameters.

Manish K. Jha: And how long it will be able to fly for ISR activities?

G Satheesh Reddy: It is 18 hours and about 28,000 feet.

Manish K. Jha: And how could we have the combat capabilities for Rustom II?

G Satheesh Reddy: That we need to discuss with Armed Forces. This is basically made for surveillance applications.

Manish K. Jha: So when do you think Rustom II will ready to be inducted by our Armed forces? Where is the need to import drones?

G Satheesh Reddy: I am sure, once we meet service requirements, it will be inducted by the Armed Forces. In that case, we don’t need to buy or procure drones from other countries

Manish K. Jha: Can we completely substitute the import option?

G Satheesh Reddy: Definitely! Once an indigenous system is made, we don't need to buy from outside. And so the moment we meet all the requirements, we sit with armed forces, DG Acquisition, and all stakeholders to evolve a plan and timeline based on the collective decision.