Hailing it as a major milestone in the development of unmanned aircraft, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Friday conducted the first flight test of the Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator at the Aeronautical test range in Karnataka’s Chitradurga.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the DRDO and termed it a major achievement towards autonomous aircraft, adding that it will pave the way for ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ in terms of critical military systems.
DRDO scientists have said that the test is a major milestone in their efforts towards developing an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) or a combat drone which is of flying wing type.
The flying wing type of aircraft refers to a tailless fixed-wing aircraft which houses its payload and fuel in its main wings and does not have a defined fuselage-like structure found in conventional aircrafts. The design, scientists say, has the potential to deliver high fuel efficiency and stability, if executed with precision, as demonstrated by some advanced bombers in the USA.
Sources said the Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator is a precursor to an autonomous stealthy UCAV being developed by the DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), primarily for the Indian Air Force. A deck launched version for the Indian Navy is also said to be in the pipeline. The UCAV will be capable of launching missiles and precision-guided munitions.
“Operating in a fully autonomous mode, the aircraft exhibited a perfect flight, including take-off, way point navigation and a smooth touchdown. This flight marks a major milestone in terms of proving critical technologies towards the development of future unmanned aircraft and is a significant step towards self-reliance in such strategic defence technologies.” said a statement from the Ministry of Defence. The vehicle has been designed and developed by the ADE based in Bengaluru.
The vehicle is powered by a small turbofan engine. The airframe, undercarriage and entire flight control and avionics systems used for the aircraft have been developed indigenously.
DRDO chairman Dr G Satheesh Reddy appreciated the efforts of the teams associated in the design, development and testing of the system.