A week ago, the indigenous Nishant unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flew for the first time with an Indian engine ("Wankel" comes dangerously close to something else, but what the hell). Here's a statement from DRDO today:
A bright and sunny morning in a historic place of world war II abandoned runway in a small village called Veerapura, 8 Kms from Kolar witnessed another historic event of First ever flight of an indigenous engine powering Nishant Unmanned Air Vehicle. The engine, a wankel Rotary type was a project originated from VRDE, Ahmednagar, and jointly designed and developed by NAL, a CSIR lab, VRDE, Ahmednagar and ADE, Bangalore.
The flight took off at 1157 hrs on the morning of 31 Mar and climbed to an altitude of 1.8 Kms effortlessly before cruising for a duration of 35 mts. The air vehicle was recovered safely at the intended place in dried up Muduvadi lake after a total flight duration of 40 mts. The event was witnessed by key personnel PS Krishnan, Director ADE, Dr CL Dhamejani, Director VRDE and DR. AR Upadhya, Director NAL, Regional Director RCMA and Regional Director,AQA and other senior officers.
The Wankel engine is first of its kind totally designed and developed in the country. 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 in a short ceremony held at the launch pad. The engine was cleared for flight after a rigorous ground and endurance test run.
The engine weighs about 30 Kgs, and is known for its high power to weight ratio in single rotor category. The engine performed very well in flight meeting all the requirements of the Air Vehicle. This indigenous engine is expected to replace the present imported engine of Nishant. The engine has a power of 55 hp and can also be used for powering smaller air vehicles, automotive, out board motors, and Industrial applications.
The event signifies an achievement in many ways like it is the first time that a wankel engine is developed with in the country and a UAV is flown with an indigenous engine. It is planned to use this developed technology for future application for the UAV's under development in ADE, Bangalore.
NISHANT is a reconnaissance UAV which has completed its user trials with Indian Army, and a certain number of units will shortly be handed over the the Army for operational use.