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India's Rustom UAV crashes during first flight

India's attempts to develop an indigenous unmanned air vehicle capability have suffered an early setback, with the nation's Rustom technology demonstrator having crashed on its first flight.

The UAV - the result of work by India's Aeronautical Development Establishment - came down during its debut sortie, performed at Hosur near Bangalore on 16 November.

India has funded the development of the medium-altitude, long-endurance Rustom to meet the surveillance requirements of its armed forces. The design should provide an alternative to imported systems such as the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron now flown by the nation's army.

The ADE says the crash was the result of "a misjudgement of altitude", with one local media report saying the UAV hit coconut trees after its engine was intentionally switched off.

Despite the mishap, the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation says: "The flight proved the functioning of a number of systems such as aerodynamics, redundant flight control, engine and datalink, which go a long way towards the development of a complex UAV."

At least 10 more test flights of the Rustom design are expected before the system can be taken up for production. The test work is being performed using a sub-scale version of the air vehicle with a 1.5m (4.9ft) wing span and an overall length of 3m.

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