Tuesday, November 17, 2009

India's Rustom UAV Crashes During First Flight

Bad news. The first technology demonstrator of India's RUSTOM medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programme crashed during its first test flight on Tuesday, November 16, at the Taneja Aerospace airfield near Hosur in Karnataka. Sources present at the test have told LiveFist that the Rustom took off and flew for a bit. One its return path, it crashed into a grove of coconut trees. The RUSTOM-1 was almost completely destroyed in the mishap. The DRDO statement issued today smacks of a muff-up. "The taxing and take-off was exactly as planned. Due to misjudgment of altitude of the flight, the on-board engine was switched off through ground command which made the on-board thrust developed to go to zero. There are a lot of gains from the flight," the DRDO statement says. Whenever anyone says there have been "gains", and even if it's true, you can bet your last buck that it's been a bad accident (see photo on the left ©The New Indian Express)

It goes on to add, "The flight proved the functioning of a number of systems such as aerodynamics, redundant flight control, engine, redundant data link etc which go a long way towards development of complex UAVs. A lot of planning and care have been taken and notification through relevant authorities were done in order to cater for safety aspects in addition to taking a third party insurance for the flights. It is the first flight of its kind using a 700 kg airframe & sophisticated controls & hence prone to development hazards." The photo to the left shows the late Professor Rustom Behram Damania (after whom the UAV programme is named) demonstrating the Light Canard Research Aircraft (LCRA) to then President KR Narayanan. Prof Damania pioneered the LCRA upon which the Rustom UAV is based, though he is better known for his work on the Hansa light composite trainer.

The crash is an undeniable blow to the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), which was in the midst of pioneering the Rustom, first displayed to the public at Aero India 2009 (see photo at top). Here's hoping the ADE team quickly finds out what went wrong and moves forward. This is a Rs 1,000-crore programme that we cannot afford to have delayed, as it indubitably now will be. Stay tuned for updates.

Photo ©Shiv Aroor

36 comments :

Anonymous said...

how dreadful.. please post more details

Anonymous said...

The Tomcat crashed on its first flight too... so the Rustom seems to be in exalted company :P

Jokes apart, I hope this crash doesn't affect the program as such. Hope the powers that be realise that these things happen (that is why we TEST it!) and shouldn't be used as a reason to lambast DRDO and starve it of funds.

At the same time, the DRDO should come clean about such crashes and failures. It is no longer seen as an org that wastes money while achieving zilch, and should not be scared of bad press.

Anonymous said...

I hope the media (and some LF readers) do not over criticize this event. Every person to falter before they can walk. The project is bound to succeed in a very short course of time - have faith!

Anonymous said...

Good to know about the development of Rustom. Things as such are bound to happen in development of complex machines.
Hope that this program leads to a 100% success and lets India save on the precious foreign exchange.

Bala Vignesh said...

Damn.. I read about the crash in the paper but never thought the bird was Rustom... this seriously sucks...

Jay said...

"gains"???
How lame..
Better do a JV with IAI..on Heron airframe instead of wasting time...
We should instead focus on building 6th jet powered maneuvering UCAVs of X-47 variants..then only..something will come out from end of the tunnel a good 20 years from now..sigh!..

Rahul Singh said...

These things are required to make Indian mind mature. We are stepping in more fields and more frequently , so the frequency of these type of news will only rise.

Happy to see program rolling.

Good luck to ADE

Dhagash said...

DRDO SHOULD BE BANNED FROM PRODUCING ANYTHING WITHOUT INTERNATIONAL /LOCAL PRIVATE CORPORATION CO-OPERATION

Rahul Singh said...

Rustom is based on LCRA? At least its basic looks does not suggest this. Rustom looks absolutely different from canard LCRA.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that this PoS crashed. No offense, but just look at it's crude aerodynamics and build quality. Looks like it was made in the same local garage when the mistri ji was builds Yamaha R1 body kits for Bajaj Pulsar.

Did they even use a CAD program to design it? Machine the components? I doubt it, otherwise it won't look so slab sided. Kids who make small project aircrafts in US do a better job then this.

IMO a serios culture 'shock' is needed at DRDO. Otherwise they will keep churning out uncompetetive junk.

Anonymous said...

Well the reported cause for crash seems to be the equivalent of pilot error...."Due to misjudgment of altitude of the flight, the on-board engine was switched off through ground command"

much better than many other possible explanation!!!

And yes no1 will really care for the reason now...go Bash DRDO!!!

Anonymous said...

What's the big deal about the LCRA - it's basically a reassembled Rutan Long-EZ kit plane.

Truth for India said...

This type of things happen when aircrafts are tested. I expect it will not effect the project.

DRDO should work fast to ensure success as they did earlier.

Anonymous said...

Fingers crossed babudom and yellow journos along with Fin-Min and CAG don't kill the project. Setbacks are bound to happen. Good luck to the team and hope they find whatever faults there are, rectify them and move forward.

Anonymous said...

Shiv, I don't think it's such a blow to the program. They flew it. The error has been noticed and it will be corrected in the next version. It was reported earlier that a total of only 10 flights were planned for this miniature version before they build the real prototype.

Rafale said...

Shit happens,as it is bound to with any new program. No pain , no gain. No need to cancel the program. It should stay on track.

Tushar said...

Yes, The Rustom is actually almost exactly the same as the Rutan. All DRDO did was make it independent from a human pilot.

Its not actually a great achievement, neither will it affect DRDO.

Also for all the Idiots who think DRDO's finance will be revoked ! Stop dreaming. DRDO can never ever be bullied or threatened. Their budget is approved by ManMohan Singh himself, and can never be comprimised. DRDO today can ask for US $40 Billion to develop a next Gen BMD shield, and I assure you their funding would be started in a week or so.

The only reason DRDO is hesitant to ask for major funding, is because they are confident with abilities to work with minimal funds.

World well wisher said...

Its very sad to read so many comments badmouthing DRDO by people who as if build UAV every other day in their garage or kitchen. DRDO people did not study in MIT or OXFORD. The people who work for DRDO are people like you and me. No one can expect them to start building an UAV that can fly 1000 hours from the day one.
The reporters should report news rather than discouraging comments. This is the first time DRDO is flying this UAV. Shi* happens. You guys are talking, as if every one one started running from the day they born. When ISRO first launched PSLV it also dived into Bay of Bengal. The people will work on it and improve it.
If everyone really want Indian R&D to succeed why dont everyone encourage their uberintelligent sons and daughters to do R&D in India, instead of settling in US/UK/Australia.
Most of the people who work for DRDO are sacrificing their life for the country. There is tremendous market for their potential. Thats why there is severe attrition in DRDO. Instead of bad mouthing DRDO's attempts give encouragement for the effort they put with in the limited finance.

su30 said...

INS Arihant - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLeo2HmZpdI

Anonymous said...

@well wisher

People are not bashing DRDO for this crash. Failure happens and it has to be taken in the stride. But this entire rotten structure has a history of producing crap. Its not that Indians working in DRDO are dunderheads. The same Indians under a foreign defense firm produce wonders. So the question to be asked is, whats wrong with DRDO culture? Do they have product owners who can be questioned for years of shoddy work?

Anonymous said...

@ anon @ 1131PM

lets hope you are qualified to say whether or not CAD was used to model just by looking at a picture (incomplete one at that) !!!

Pls design ur own UAV and teach DRDo about CAD (btw any idea what software you are going to use???...or what aspect you are going to model???)

@Tushar
Taking the pilot out is a big deal...you are replacing a living being who has the capability to think, and has experience by a computer!!! (ok a computer to do quite a bit)

Anonymous said...

It is rather interesting for me to read the post. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read more on that blog soon.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, MIT / Oxford / Stanford are overrated. Indian graduates from Andhra University can build anything if they put their mind to it, have a scientific approach and have good leaders. Thusly I have seen. Gosh, how I want to return to India! I've had enough.

Anonymous said...

It is quite easy to have misjudged the height especially when flying over trees or similar structures ( height is measured by some form of reflected wave from ground..or by using difference in pressure..but that gives you only height above sea level)

Anonymous said...

why cant we go to the simple structure this is happen incase of lca to hal made doi, doi kind of wing and now they are going to make entirely newer kind of plane aka lca2

china can spend more money than us still they are going to proven designs even if any crashes occurs the news wont be released to media shit in case of india every thing goes to public

hal wale we indins cant bear bad news cant spent big money so only go for joint ventures dont try to reinvent decade old things again

Anonymous said...

1000 crores for that !!??!?!?... look at the quality of that thing ! . even the RC Models NCC cadets do are much better and more reliable , i wonder how many decades DRDO will take to roll out another Sad Looking Prototype

Compare this to Predator we need something of that class

Anonymous said...

@ world well wisher. While i agree that most talent flits overseas, i disagree that "Most of the people who work for DRDO are sacrificing their life for the country.". I think the people sacrificing their lives for the country are the armed forces personnel who are often forced to use underperforming weapon systems in the name of 'indigenisation".

Anonymous said...

Unfortunate. But perhaps a good reality check for many people who always rush into saying how advance India flight aeronautics is today.

It is not.

Jigish Parikh said...

@ Jay

"JV with IAI using Heron Airframe"....I partially agree with you in the sense indigenity cannot be achieved at the cost of time especially when are its a matter of playing a catch-up with your adversary. However good luck with getting approval for JV with IAI from OBAMA...Did not you read how he is vigorously trying to isolate India on Kashmir issue and bring China in as a third-party ? I bet talks of India-US Strategic alliance is piece of crap which remains on paper till date. US is known for back-stabbing its allies. ie. Pakistan.. Our present govt is such a fool to put all her eggs in US basket. Ah I wish Congress today had a leader like Mrs. Indira Gandhi. She had the guts to go against Mr. Nixon and Mr. Kissinger's decree to not to attack Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

The product is just starting. Let this crash be some kind of inspiration to those who work on the project to work hard and smart. A similar incident happened with India's Rockets. Dr.APJ Kalam was at the helm. After the first crash, the team analyzed the result corrected and succeeded. Today we have the capability to launch ten satellites in one go and even land craft on the moon and in the near future to Mars. So just because the first test went in crash can never mean the program will fail. The team must ensure the program succeeds. All the best to them.

Yalamber said...

"If you are not ashamed of your first product, then you have launched it too late"

I am just so amazed at the sheer stupidity of some of the commenters on this blog. Wonder why Mr. Aroor allows them to be published. Some of them are comparing a real UAV with a model plane built by kids in USA. I can see some sneering NRIs sitting comfortably in their homes and commenting on the state of things in India. It is easy to see that such people have zero understanding of technology. I am sure most of them have not even seen a real jet in their life.

DRDO should not get disheartened by such bullshit. No product is complete or best on it's first trial.

Bash on regardless DRDO.

Anonymous said...

even the RC Models NCC cadets do are much better and more reliable

Those RC models are designed by aerodyamicists in CATIA and then mass produced to bring down the costs. Their aerodynamics and construction is amazing whwen you consider how cheap they are.

Those western companies don't hire employees based on an entrance exam, have caste-based reservation and rampant regionalism in their managerial force either.

This is not an issue with any one product but our wider culture. Unless the culture itself is changed (and most Indians will whine whne that happens), we are doomed to make such crude junk.

Anonymous said...

man I read the comments and its obvious that some major morons who failed school are posting here..if any of those dimbulbs had studied science and had the least bit of exposure to technology, they'd know that experiments fail, things don't necessarily work at the first go, and how things look doesn't decide their functionality. Shiv, you really need to take a good long look at the nonsense that people are posting as comments on your blog. badmouthing Indian efforts while being blissfully unaware of how other nations are faring in their own programs, which are funded at levels the DRDO cannot even imagine.

Anonymous said...

RC models...
by the same argument
all A/C manufacturers are stupid/incompetent for spending so much money on development!!

When u have an itsy bitsy RC model..the dynamics are different . When u have a 20m wingspan its different ...seriously Mr.Aroor. the blog says u moderate comments..do you???

Anonymous said...

they'd know that experiments fail

Genius, in this day and age there is no need to "experiment" with such tiny UAVs. All the relevant data in available publically, you just have to assemble the damn thing. Just look at the shape of that thing....and its build quality.

Anonymous said...

To all the wonderful genuises berating DRDO, do you have any clue how many such crashes our programs have endured (esp. the Predator drones)?

The US is numero uno because it can handle failure and learn from it. You should commend the DRDO team on getting it airborne in the first place. With India's amazing code writing ability, the mission control software will be a breeze. No other way to test the software than to lose 50-55 of these drones while perfecting it. Once you have it pat down, remember all of China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and the SAARC countries are within reach! Think possibilities, dear Indians and give it five years to flower into a potent killing machine!

- Friendly Sam