India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)is preparing to start low-rate production of its Nishant tactical unmanned air vehicle, ahead of first deliveries to Indian army trials groups next year.

The carriage of extra trials instrumentation will limit operations of early UAVs to around 4.5h, but the DRDO says it plans to use this space to expand the Nishant's fuel reserve. Production examples will have an endurance of more than 6.5h, it says.

Both the trials and full-rate production air vehicles will carry a standard payload comprising infrared and daylight cameras. However, the DRDO says work is under way on modular electronic intelligence and communications intelligence payloads that could be fitted in the field if required.

Production approvals for the Nishant remain dependent on the outcome of the trials in 2005.

The DRDO is also to develop a replacement digital avionics suite for its Lakshya target drone.

Source: Flight International