After a recent successful 18-hour flight test at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka, the TAPAS 201 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV has reached a significant milestone in its development.
The Aeronautical Development Establishment of Bengaluru has designed and developed the TAPAS 201 aircraft (ADE). The production partners for the MALE UAV will be HAL and BEL.
After losing connection with the ground station and encountering turbulence too strong for the control law to handle, the Rustom-2 prototype AF-6 crashed on September 17, 2019.
TAPAS BH 201 or Rustom-II
Rustom-II/Tapas BH-201, a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone, is being developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).
HISTORY OF TAPAS BH-201
It all began with a team led by Professor Rustom Damania of the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) creating a manned, twin-seater Light Canard Research Aircraft (LCRA).
ADE’s Rustom-I MALE drone, inspired by LCRA’s design, aims to improve upon the original. Rustom-I was a proving ground for developing Rustom-II by integrating and testing the required aerodynamic configuration with the necessary sensors and avionics.
However, it was limited in payload, range, and altitude; however, A brand-new, superior design for Rustom-H was developed to address these deficiencies.
The aircraft had a larger airframe, greater payload capacity, more composite materials in the airframe, a higher Lift to Drag ratio, and more redundancy to ensure safe operation in case the hydraulic systems failed. A stronger data link (to facilitate better communication with the ground stations) and improved propulsion systems.
So far, The Timelines.
- Rustom-first II’s flight was on November 16, 2016, at Chitradurga’s Aeronautical Test Range (ATR).
- S. Christopher, then-DRDO Chief, said 9 prototypes would be built and improved from the initial aircraft for testing before certification.
- On February 25, 2018, Rustom-II/TAPAS BH-201 made its first user configuration flight at Chitradurga with the higher-capacity engine.
- The Rustom-2 prototype AF-6 crashed on September 17, 2019, after losing contact with the ground station and encountering turbulence that was too strong for the control law to handle.
- On November 7, 2020, the first GPS-SBAS-based auto takeoff was successful. GAGAN improved GPS accuracy.
- On January 10, 2021, CVRDE gave ADE the indigenous retractable landing gear.
- On November 13, 2021, GAGAN SATCOM successfully performed Automatic Takeoff and Landing (ATOL).
- April 2022 saw Tapas’ first external pilot-assisted night landing.
- In 2022, the project cost Rs 1,786 crores, up from Rs 1,540.74 crores.
- The Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy plan to induct 76 TAPAS BH-201/Rustom-II drones.
Key Features of Tapas BH-201
Altitude & Endurance
It has an operational ceiling of 30.000 feet and a flight time of 18 hours as of now. But the ADE Director, Dr. S. Venugopal, says that ADE has plans to move it to 24-hour endurance requirements.
The data link (which employs C Band frequency) developed by DRDO’s Defence Electronics Application Laboratory (DEAL) ranges 250 km or more in a direct line of sight. Furthermore, the GAGAN system extends the SATCOM’s (Ku Band frequency) communication range to more than a thousand kilometers.
What are the Sensors used in the UAV
The aircraft utilizes several sensors for connecting with satellites, ground stations, and other aircraft. Some important are listed below.
The Ground Integrated Payload Processing Unit (GIPPU) and The Airborne Integrated Payload Processing Unit (AIPPU)
It has three wide bands and four narrow bands for communication. Because it is compatible with both Los and SATCOM, the purpose of these sensors is to compress and encrypt video input before transmitting it to ground stations or satellites.
i. Airborne Spread Spectrum Modem (ASSM)
It decrypts data at a low level, processes the spectrum of radiation the aircraft uses and defends against jammers.
ii. Radio Finger Printing System (RFPS)
It helps cancel noises and stabilizes a broad spectrum of frequencies through a narrow channel.
iii. Solid State Power Amplifier (SSPA)
It allows for wide-band operation, handles heat dissipation and generation of 20W output power, and aids in open circuit protection.
iv. Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS)
It’s an anti-collision system for airplanes, so it can help keep planes from colliding in the sky.
v. Radar Warning Receiver (RWR)
It can pick up the radio waves from radar systems and sound an alarm if it thinks that signal is dangerous. Afterward, you can use this alert in two ways to avoid the danger: manually and mechanically.
vi. Identification, friend, or foe (IFF)
It’s a way to tell the difference between planes belonging to the same military and planes belonging to an opposing force. Most Indian military aircraft use IFF Mk XII as their standard sensor.
It’s a high-powered aerial system that can locate and identify civilian and military radio transmissions from anywhere.
Electronic intelligence, or ELINT, is typically defined as the analysis of “non-communication” signals, such as those emitted by radars, missiles, guidance systems, aircraft, etc.
The intercepted signals are then analyzed to determine the angle of arrival, emitter frequency, pulse width, pulse repetition period, antenna beam width, etc. This information determines the emitter type, travel path, and location.
What About TAPAS BH-201 Radars?
The Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), DRDO, is responsible for the SAR technology used in this system.
It is a mechanically steered radar that can generate maps, create 3D maps, conduct patrols, and more. It’s functional in three different ways:
i. Strip mode: Scan a wide area in the form of a strip with a range of Resolution of 3-6m.
ii. Spotlight mode: Scans a specific immovable target.
iii. Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) mode: It can scan a moving ground target and has a 25m Resolution.
Currently, the TAPAS BH-201 is equipped with 168 horsepower Austro E4 engines. The engines will be replaced with 220 horsepower diesel engines from CVRDE, for which ADE issued a tender earlier in 2022.
TAPAS BH-201 can carry 350kg. The payload includes Medium Range/Long Range Electro Optic (MREO/LREO), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT), Maritime Patrol Airborne Radar (MPAR), Situational Awareness Payloads like IFF, TCAS, UAV Communication Repeater/Relay, and IFF (UCR).
Kevlar, used as Radar Absorbent Material (RAM), and Carbon Fibre Composites (CFC) form a 3mm thick sandwich. This coating on the airframe reduces radar reflections and makes the plane more stealthy.
Y Dilip, Director ADE, has stated that although ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) is Tapas’ primary function, the platform can be easily converted into an armed one by simply adding the appropriate weapons.
Seventy-five percent of the TAPAS BH-201 is made from domestic materials, and its most important systems are being created in the country. As soon as the indigenous engine developed by CVRDE is implemented, the quality of the indigenous content will increase even further.
How Important is TAPAS BH-201/ Rustom-II
Military drones generate billions of dollars in sales in India due to their practical uses in border security, counterterrorism operations, maritime surveillance, and extended mission durations.
With the success of TAPAS BH-201, India will take a major step forward in the military drone market. This is because India has mastered and developed many essential technologies, components, and subsystems that are essential to the operation of a military drone.
Like the Tejas project, which led to the creation of larger and more capable platforms like the Tejas Mk2 and the TEDBF, Tapas can serve as a useful blueprint for the next generation of drones.
As a result, the private sector will have a chance to participate in the modular production of Line Replacing Units (LRUs) for HAL.
The TAPAS BH-201/Rustom-II project represents a major step forward for India’s drone manufacturing sector. Akin to the Tejas program, it may even mark the “industry coming of age” for military drone development in India.
Instead of relying on foreign silver bullets for a similar role, the Indian armed forces should place a large order of these.
This will bring India closer to its goal of self-sufficiency, or “Atmanirbhar Bharat,” and add it to the select group of countries that produce sophisticated military drones.