Israel Aerospace Industries and Hindustan Aeronautics are co-operating to enable the transition of the Indian-developed Dhruv advanced light helicopter into an unmanned maritime rotorcraft.
Already involved in the Dhruv programme, IAI has developed an integrated helicopter avionics suite that would give the type a day and night observation capability, observation and targeting and electronic warfare equipment and a flexible weapons carrying system.
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The Indian navy wants an unmanned version of the Dhruv, having criticised the performance of early production examples of the type. The service operates five examples, as listed in Flightglobal's HeliCAS database.
IAI and HAL have performed initial tests of an unmanned version of the Chetak helicopter, but their focus has now shifted to adapting the Dhruv. Their proposed solution would lead to the development of a "black box" that could replace the aircraft's pilots for maritime missions.
An unmanned version of the Dhruv could begin a series of test flights during 2011, a senior IAI source says. "The potential customers for unmanned helicopters are beginning to understand the potential in such a platform," the source adds.