Friday, April 10, 2009

Nishant UAV takes off from WWII runway with indigenous Wankel engine



An abandoned World War II runway at a village near Kolar on Sunday played host to the first ever flight of an indigenous rotary engine-powered unmanned air vehicle (UAV), Nishant. The flight took off on early Sunday morning and climbed to an altitude of 1.8 kms effortlessly before cruising for a duration of 35 minutes. The air vehicle was recovered safely at the intended place at a dried-up lake, after a total flight duration of 40 mins. The engine, a Wankel rotary type, was the developmental project of the DRDO and was jointly designed and developed by NAL, a CSIR laboratory, VRDE, Ahmednagar and ADE, Bangalore. Very few countries in the world have the capability to develop and master this technology. The provisional flight clearance for the first indigenous prototype engine was given by the certifying agency, RCMA. The engine was cleared for flight after rigorous ground endurance test runs. The Wankel engine weighs about 30 kgs, and this engine type is known for its high power to weight ratio in a single rotor category.

Performance check

The performance of the engine during the flight met the requirements of the first flight of a engine in the air vehicle. This 55 hp indigenous engine is expected to replace the present imported engine of Nishant. The critical core engine, including the special cylinder composite nickel-silicon carbide coating and special aluminium alloy castings, was designed and developed by NAL. VRDE developed engine peripherals such as the ignition and fuel systems and ADE developed flight testing. The reconnaissance UAV, which has completed its user trials with the Indian Army, is expected to be handed over to the army shortly.

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