India is slowly, but surely, designing its own range of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, thanks to the data gathered from the Long-EZ...

The Rustom-I demonstrator, basically an unmanned Long-EZ, is presented to the public at Aerosem 2008 in Bangalore.

The Rustom-I being built... or is it a full-scale model?

Manufacturer:DRDO-ADE (Aeronautical Development Establishment subsidiary), India

Type:  Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) UAV

Program:  Rustom UAV Phase 1 (Rustom-I) and Phase 2 (Rustom-H)

Powerplant: 2 x 120 hp 4-cylinder, 4-stroke Rotax 914 engines

Significant date: 2009

Spurred by the success of its Nishant UAV program, India's DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation), one of Asia's largest defence contractors and a leading aerospace manufacturer (headquartered in New Delhi) has embarked on an ambitious program to develop a long endurance and range UAV named Rustom through its ADE (Aeronautical Development Establishment) subsidiary, to replace the current Israeli Heron drones. Although it is not acknowledged officially, reliable sources claim that ADE is getting help from Israel's IAI on the Rustom program.

With the Rustom MALE UAV project, DRDO intends to move away from traditional ways of developing products whereby laboratories under DRDO, like the ADE, develop and finalize the product and transfer technology to a production agency. In order to reduce the time to make the system operational, DRDO will follow a practice of concurrent engineering where initial design efforts also take into consideration production issues, with a production agency and development partner (PADP) identified from within the Indian industry who will have a stake in the program, participating in the development of the system right from the design stage. The PADP will participate in the development of the systems and concurrently develop necessary infrastructure and expertise for the production and product support for the users. This approach is expected to address the problems hitherto faced by the users in exploiting DRDO developed systems in the field, thereby overcoming time delays in crucial projects.

The Rustom UAV program will again be a multi work center activity including the development of efficient lightweight airframes, advanced flight control systems including automatic take-off and landing systems, advanced data links, payloads such as imaging and eletronic support measure (ESM) systems. In contrast to the earlier approach of developing every conceivable technology, ADE plans to procure various payloads and sub-systems for the initial phase of development while simultaneously developing indigenous capability in the identified areas.

The Rustom UAV is being developed in two phases. In Phase I, an unmanned version of NAL's LCRA (Light Canard Research Aircraft), a Long-EZ design built in the 80s for research purposes, will be used as the Rustom-I. As it is a single engine system which does not have the endurance or payload that would meet the DRDO requirements, it is only used to develop technologies and subsystems. This technology initiative project is under progress, and a lot of subsystems are currently being qualified on the unmanned version of LCRA, which is basically a Rutan Long-EZ derivative. It was publicly displayed at Aerosem 2008, a celebration for the golden jubilee of DRDO at ADE in Bangalore, along with sub-scaled RC models of both Phase I and II articles. Low speed trials were done on Sept 22, high speed ones followed in October and flight testing followed suit.

Phase II concerns a totally different design, the Rustom-H, that owes nothing to Burt Rutan's design. It is a Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (MALE UAV), a twin engine system designed to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It is being developed for all three services of Indian Armed Forces. DRDO and the services have been interacting extensively to arrive at a mutually acceptable qualitative requirement that would meet the long-term requirements of the services. Rustom is supposed to match the performance and requirements of similar international UAVs such as the Heron.

The T-tail is because of the need to house ESM/CSM antennas on the tips of the T — one can see three vertical pieces on each tip, which are the CSM/ESM antennas — the need to perch them without interference having ruled out a Y-tail. The tail portion, both horizontal and vertical, does not contain any fuel because there is too much CG shift if the fuel is loaded there, therefore fuel is loaded only in the wing and the fuselage. The full tail is madeout of GFRP, so there is no reason to worry about the tail spoiling the RCS signature. Besides service ceiling is high enough to evade detection by ground based radars, and airborne radars are not a problem either because the body is fully made of composite materials.

Rustom will be launched by the conventional method and not the launcher as in the case of the group's Lakshya and Nishant. Rustom will be able to see the enemy territory up to a distance of 250 km and carry a variety of cameras and radar for surveillance. Being a long endurance UAV, it will be very useful for both military and civil applications such as monitoring the enemy's order of battle, traffic monitoring, border patrols, disaster management and prevention of drug trafficking and infiltration, etc. Indian armed forces as well as coast guard and police forces require such a UAV in large numbers in order to meet their military and civil needs.

Phase II will proceed once the production agency and development partner (PADP) has been identified. The ADE officials indicated that the requests for proposals (RFP) would shortly be issued to four vendors which are the Tatas, Larsen and Toubro, Godrej and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-Bharat Electronics (joint bid) who were chosen out of the 23 firms that responded. Currently, negotiations are underway between these companies and the three Indian armed forces since the private majors are looking for support and commitment from them before they start executing any development and production plans. This is because of the fact that the chosen PADP will also have a financial stake in the Rustom project. The Armed Forces would also be asked to take up a financial stake and the Indian government may have to guarantee that a specific number of Rustom UAVs will be bought. ADE will be the main agency taking up the project and the project coordinator. DRDO laboratories such as DEAL, Dehradun, LRDE, Bangalore and DLRL, Hyderabad will be the other work centers.

The Rustom-H UAV has already been displayed in full-scale model form at Aero India '09. A 1:2 model of the Rustom has already completed control surface tests and low speed taxi trials, but it will be three years to the first flight of the real FSD article, however. The program is expected to culminate in a viable operational system by the end of 2012. As a side note, it is worthy of mention that the Rustom UAVs have been named after Rustom Behram Damania, a former professor of IISc, Bangalore who died in 2001 and who forming the starting point and nucleus of small aircraft design at National Aeronautical Laboratories (NAL) during the 1980s. Indeed, the Rustom-1's forerunner, the LCRA, was the first design built under his auspices.

Population: 1 prototype (serial unknown), not yet in production


Endurance: 12 hours
Payload: 75 kg
Range: 250 km (estimated)
Fuel: located in wings and in place of cockpit


Take-off/landing: conventional / ATOL
Service ceiling: 30,000 ft (9,144 m) (earlier source gave 35,000 ft.)
Endurance: > 24 hrs on station at 1000 km
Wingspan: 20 m (65.616 ft)
Empty weight: 1,800 kg (3968.32 lbs)
Maximum speed: 225 km/h (139.81 mph)
Engine performance: 128 Nm @ 5800 RPM

Operational range:
Direct line of sight: 250 km
With relay: 350 km

Electro-optic payload : Day and night electro-optic sensors
Radar payloads: Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) /
                               Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR)
ESM payloads: ELINT & COMINT
Payload capacity: 350 kg

Crew/passengers: unmanned

Main sources:
- Flight's South Asia Defence and Strategic Review, May-June 2008
- the "Rustom" article at Wikipedia.org
- the New Delhi Review forum
- the Bharat Rakshak forum

The Rustom-H is an entirely different design owing nothing to Rutan's Long-EZ or any other of his designs.

From any angle, the Rustom-H is an ungainly monster of a UAV.