DRDO Rustom

A model of the DRDO Rustom-H HALE UAV

A model of the DRDO Rustom-H HALE UAV

The DRDO Rustom (English: Warrior) is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) being developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation for the three services, Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force of the Indian Armed Forces. Rustom is derived from the NAL’s LCRA (Light Canard Research Aircraft) developed by a team under the leadership of late Prof Rustom Damania in the 1980s. The UAV will have structural changes and a new engine. Rustom will replace/supplement the Heron UAVs in service with the Indian armed forces.

Role Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
Manufacturer Defence Research and Development Organisation
First flight
  • Rustom-1: 11 November 2009
  • Rustom-2: 15 November 2016
  • Rustom-1 MALE UAV (Prototype flight testing)
  • Rustom-H HALE UAV (Under development)
  • Rustom-2 UCAV (Prototype flight testing)
Primary users Indian Air Force
Indian Army
Indian Navy

Design and development

Rustom-1’s basic design is derived from the NAL light canard research aircraft (LCRA). The aircraft has been named after Rustom Damania, a former professor of IISc, Bangalore who died in 2001. As a Parsi, Rustom himself was named after the Parthian general Rostam Farrokhzad in the Sassanid court who fought the Muslim Arabs. DRDO decided to name the UAV after him because it is derived from National Aerospace Laboratories‘ light canard research aircraft (LCRA) developed under Rustom Damania’s leadership in the 1980s.

With the Rustom MALE UAV project, DRDO intends to move away from traditional ways of developing products whereby laboratories under DRDO, like the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), which is involved in this project, develop and finalise the product and transfer technology to a production agency.

DRDO will follow a practice of concurrent engineering where initial design efforts also take into consideration production issues, with the production agency participating in the development of the system right from the design stage. The agency will also follow up issues related to infrastructure and expertise for the product and its support, thereby overcoming time delays in crucial projects.

Rustom-1 which bears an uncanny resemblance to Rutan Long-EZ designed by Burt Rutan has a wingspan of 7.9 metres and weighs 720 kg, will be launched by the conventional method and not the launcher as in the case of the DRDO Lakshya. Rustom will be able to see the enemy territory up to a distance of 250 km and carry a variety of cameras and radar for surveillance.

Rustom-H, built on a different design, owes nothing to Burt Rutan‘s Long-EZ design. It is a Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (MALE UAV), a twin engine system designed to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Rustom H will have a payload capacity of 350 kg.

The range of advanced technologies and systems include the following:

  • Aerodynamic configurations, High aspect ratio wing, Composite airframe integrated with propulsion system, De-icing system for wings
  • Highly reliable systems with built-in redundancy for flight critical systems like flight control and navigation, data links, power management, – and mission critical payload management system
  • Digital Flight Control and Navigation System, Automatic Take off and Landing (ATOL)
  • Digital communication technologies for realising data links to control and operate the mission and relay UAVs
  • Payloads with high resolution and precision stabilised platforms.


There will be three variants of the Rustom UAV.

  • Rustom-I: Tactical UAV with endurance of 12 hours (based on NAL‘s LCRA which was inspired by Burt Rutan‘s Long-EZ)
  • Rustom-H: Larger UAV with flight endurance of over 24 hours (completely different design from Rustom-1), higher range and service ceiling than Rustom-1.
  • Rustom-II: An unmanned combat air vehicle based on Rustom-H model. It is often compared with Predator drones by Indian scientists and media.

Current status

The Indian government has allowed the development of the Rustom MALE UAV project in association with a production agency cum development partner (PADP). The ADE officials indicated that the requests for proposals (RFP) would shortly be issued to four vendors which are the Tatas, Larsen and Toubro, Godrej and Hindustan Aeronautics LimitedBharat Electronics (joint bid) who were chosen out of the 23 firms that responded.

A scaled down model of the Rustom-1 MALE UAV

A scaled down model of the Rustom-1 MALE UAV

Currently, negotiations are underway between these companies and the three Indian armed forces since the private majors are looking for support and commitment from them before they start executing any development and production plans. This is because of the fact that the chosen PADP will also have a financial stake in the Rustom project. The Armed Forces would also be asked to take up a financial stake and the Indian government may have to guarantee that a specific number of Rustom UAVs will be bought.


The first flight of Rustom-I UAV took place on 16-11-2009 at the Taneja Aerospace Air Field near Hosur. The demonstration resulted in the prototype crashing to the ground. Stated by the DRDO, the taxiing and takeoff 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. Despite the mishap, the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation stated: “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.”

Rustom-1 UAV prototype

Rustom-1 UAV prototype

The second “maiden” flight took place on 15th Oct 2010. In this test flight, the UAV flew for 30 minutes at an altitude of 3000 feet. The test was conducted in Hosur. The Indian army was impressed with Rustom-1 and will use it as a MALE UAV.

Rustom-1 made its 5th successful flight on morning of 12 Nov 2011, flying for 25 minutes at 2300-ft AGL at a speed 100 Knots. It completed its 8th successful flight on 8 Dec 2011. It flew at an altitude of 6000-feet (max) and at a speed of 90 knots (max) during its 30 minutes flight near Hosur, claims DRDO. The highlight of the flight was that Rustom-1 was test flown with the ‘gimbal payload assembly carrying daylight TV & Infra-Red camera for the first time. Good quality pictures were received from the camera in gimbal payload assembly.

The 14th Successful Flight of Rustom-1 was reported on 8 May 2012, with the attainment of about 11500 ft above ground level and speed of above 140 Kmph during 2 hrs 10 minutes of operation.

Rustom-II / TAPAS-BH-201

Rustom-II/TAPAS-BH-201 is a long endurance Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) being developed by India on the lines of the American Predator drones. The first flight of RUSTOM 2 took place in November 2016 after a 3-year delay. At that time, it was revealed that the UAV has been renamed from Rustom-2 to TAPAS-BH-201 ,an acronym for Tactical Airborne Platform for Aerial Surveillance-Beyond Horizon-201.Till then, Rustom-II was commonly believed to be an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle(UCAV) but at the press conference S Christopher, Director General of DRDO stated “Media reports are incorrect. Tapas is an UAV and not an UCAV.”

Rustom II had a successful maiden flight on 16th Nov 2016 at Challakere, 200 km away from Bengaluru in the district of Chitradurga in south Indian state of Karnataka. It was tested for take off, landing and other parameters.  Ten pilotless UAV’s would be produced. Nine, more advanced prototypes than the initial prototype would follow for testing before going in for certification process.

Rustom 2 maiden test flight

Rustom 2 maiden test flight

However in October, 2010 a senior DRDO official had stated,

The American RQ-1 Predator is an obvious template for the Rustom program. We’ve built a credible unmanned flying platform. The way the Americans converted a robust surveillance drone into a combat drone is something we are confident we can replicate for the Rustom-H. It will have a great deal of mission flexibility. [..]

[Work] is underway to define the weaponisation process.

In February 2012, ADE Director P S Krishnan stated,

Designing of Rustom-II has been completed, purchase orders have been placed and we are on schedule to fly for the first time in February 2014.

In September 2013, the Rustom-II began full power taxi trials at the Kolar airfield near Bengaluru. Powered by twin NPO-Saturn 36MT turboprop engines, the Rustom-II is being developed as a long endurance surveillance platform capable of deploying precision weapons in future. It would carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles for all the three armed forces in India. Once inducted, this indigenous medium altitude long endurance (MALE) multirole drone is likely to be an asset for Indian armed forces for its surveillance capability as well as for its use as an unmanned armed combat vehicle.

As Livefist revealed in 2011, the DRDO is also developing an extended range version of the HELINA air-launched anti-armour system as a possible primary weapon for a future version of Rustom-II.

Powered by twin NPO-Saturn 36MT turboprop engines, the Rustom-II is being developed as a long endurance surveillance platform capable of deploying precision weapons. With a wingspan of more than 20m and an endurance of 24-30 hours, the UCAV needs a runway to takeoff and land unlike traditional UAVs, which makes it more trustworthy.

The drone can loiter autonomously at high altitudes performing real-time, high-resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) with its SAR and EO sensors. When a target is identified, it will either illuminate the target with a laser designator for other strike aircraft, or descend to lower altitude and attack the target with its own air-to-surface missiles.

In contrast to Rustom-I, the next generation version is equipped with enhanced aerodynamic configuration, digital flight control, navigation system, communication intelligence, medium and long-range electro-optic payloads and synthetic aperture radar that will enable it to see through the clouds.

The capability of automatic takeoff and landing makes it comparable to some of the best in the world.

Once fully ready, the Rustom UAVs will replace Israeli Heron unmanned aerial vehicles being used by the Indian air force and the navy.

The team developing the Rustom-II has faced weight reduction and systems issues, resulting in delay in its debut flight by over two years. It will now undergo through a rigorous phase of flight trials.

The advanced version of Rustom-II will include greater endurance and service ceiling, in addition to the ability to deploy a wider variety of weapons. The Indian Army, IAF, Navyand Coast Guard have all expressed strong interest in the Rustom-II, though firm orders will clearly only land during advanced flight testing.”


Specifications of Rustom-1 and Rustom-H are as follows:

Data from Defstrat.comidp.justthe80.com and stargazer2006.online.fr

General characteristics

  • Crew: none
  • Payload: 95 Kg (165.3 lbs) and 350 kg (771.6 lbs) (for Rustom-1 & Rustom-H respectively)
  • Length: 5.12 m (16 ft 10 in) and 9.5 m (31 ft 2 in) (for Rustom-1 & Rustom-H respectively)
  • Wingspan: 7.9 m (25 ft 11 in) and 20.6 m (67 ft 7 in) (for Rustom-1 & Rustom-H respectively)
  • Height: Rustom-1: 2.40 m (7 ft 10 in)
  • Empty weight: 720 kg (1587.33 lbs) & 1,800 kg (3968.32 lbs) (for Rustom-1 & Rustom-H respectively)
  • Powerplant:
    • Rustom-I: 1 × Lycoming O-320 engines Four-cylinder air-cooled horizontally opposed engine, 112 kW (150 hp)
    • Rustom-H: 2 × NPO-Saturn 36MT engines wing-mounted turboprop, 73.55 kW (~100 hp) each


  • Maximum speed: 150 km/hr(Rustom 1) and 225 km/hr(Rustom 2) (139.81 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 125-175 km/hr (Rustom 2)
  • Range:
    • Line of sight: 250 km (156.25 miles)
    • Relay Communication: 350 km (218.75 miles)
  • Ferry range: 1000 km (625 miles) for Rustom-2
  • Service ceiling: 26,000 ft for Rustom-1 and 35,000 ft for Rustom-H (8,000 m and 10,668 m respectively)

(Source : en.wikipedia.org)