DRDO's new wheeled UAV to star at Aero India
By SP's Special Correspondent
Photo Credit: DRDO
January 28, 2015: The DRDO is hoping to show off its new wheeled UAV 'Panchi' at Aero India. The newest variant of the in-service Nishant surveillance drone, the Panchi has been developed with joint Indian Air Force and Army requirements in mind. With the expansion of airfield infrastructure, including in forward areas, both services, along with agencies under the Home Ministry, have expressed the need for autonomous wheeled drones. The version of the Nishant UAV currently in service with the Army is an un-wheeled version launched from a pneumatic rail launcher and recovered by a parachute drop system. The rail launcher, the Army and IAF feel, while convenient in terms of recovery, presents too large a logistical footprint for rapid operations, especially when airfield infrastructure is available. The DRDO has been asked by the Army and IAF to build better surveillance payloads for the Nishant/Panchi and to concentrate on longer endurance versions of the vehicle in an Mk.2 configuration. Separately, the IAF is also waiting for the first flight of the Rustom 2 medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV that the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) has promised will take place this year. While the February deadline is likely to be missed, it could happen any time after June. The ADE and NAL are also expected to announce progress on their respective mini and micro drone programmes, including possible contracts with police services and agencies under the Ministry of Home Affairs that have evinced interest in tactical systems.