According to LiveFist, India’s Rustom UAV has reached the government's apex Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for final financial approval. The medium altitude long endurance (MALE) drone is being developed for the Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy, and will carry out surveillance up to 250 km (155 miles) away.
Though not billed as such, Rustom fits the “hunter-killer” moniker. It can stay aloft for more than 24 hours, has a range of 300 km (186 miles), and a service ceiling of 35,000 feet. While these figures lag behind the MQ-9 Reaper (which climbs to 50,000 feet), they’re still excellent for a MALE UAV.
That being said, the Rustom is no Reaper. While the Rustom’s maximum speed is 225 km/hr (139 mph, comparable to the Reaper’s smaller cousin, the Predator), the Reaper’s cruising speed is 230 mph. And the Reaper’s 3,750-lb payload capacity dwarfs the Rustom’s paltry 1,100 lbs. In fact, whereas the Rustom and Reaper have similar wingspans (about 66 feet), the Rustom’s capabilities more closely resemble the Predator’s. None of this is to take away from the Rustom, which is a significant boon for the Indian Armed Forces.
Last November, the Rustom crashed in its first public trials, a PR disaster. But Microsoft infamously experienced similar problems with public crashing. And if Microsoft can weather the storm, so can India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).
The Rustom UAV is on track for its first test flight by the end of the year.