Suchan UAV:- Indian Army Taking UAV in Hand
Suchan, the new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by India’s CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (CSIR-NAL) first appeared in Aero India 2017. The UAV, which is produced indigeniously, is operated hand launched and belly landed. CSIR-NAL says Suchan is equipped with an advanced autopilot system with GPS assistance. Having 75-minute endurance, Suchan also features an integrated camera. The authorities are aiming to increase the airborne time to 120 minutes and add thermal cameras.
Suchan is similar in most respects to the Indian Eagle, as a hand-launched-belly-landing fixed wing, push-propeller type mini-UAS. Tested both in the plains as well as at high altitude in Ladakh, the Suchan has been similarly pitched to the armed forces, police services and counter-insurgency units, with possible interest likely to firm up this year.
The Suchan is being improved, and while the model showcased at Aero India 2017 carried an interchangeable daylight or infrared (IR) camera, the improved version can carry both simultaneously. The circular fuselage on the older version is replaced with a rectangular one to increase the room to place both cameras. This not only provided extra room for avionics but also improved the stability of the system by shifting the gimbal placed on the nose to the belly. The vehicle’s endurance has now increased from 75 to 120 minutes due to a reduction in the all-up weight through the use of composites and an increase in the wingspan from 1.6 to 1.85 m.
Further, to improve the endurance, the incidence of the wings is reduced making it more suitable for low-altitude operations. The glide ratio has also been improved by introducing a retractable
gimbal, which can be housed in the fuselage when not in use.
The operating altitude of the Suchan ranges from about 300 to 900 ft above ground level, while its service ceiling is 4,600 ft with an all-up weight of 3.5 kg. The Suchan, which can operate in a short take-off and landing (STOL) configuration with static object tracking, geo tagging, terrain following, and software image stabilisation and mosaicking, is now expected to operate in a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) configuration with moving object trajectory within a year.
The current system has GPS-aided waypoint navigation and loiter, and can be controlled via a user-friendly ground-control station (GCS) with real-time video and recording. It features a ‘safety pilot’ and a return-to-home facility should the link be lost or the battery run down, and it can be easily assembled by a team of two.
The Suchan can be used for border and coastal security, battle damage assessment, forest-fire detection, weather data collection, commercial aerial surveillance, mapping applications, and search-and-rescue operations. The system has been used by a number of India’s government departments and tested by the Indian Air Force.
The NAL says that an effort to improve the present 5–10 kg-class of UAV that includes the Suchan is in progress. The organisation is working in collaboration with CSRI – Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute (CEERI) to develop target acquisition and simultaneous video streaming via satellite communications (SATCOM). There are also plans to install near-infrared (NIR) cameras and multispectral and high-spectral sensors for agricultural and land survey uses in the commercial sector.
The Suchan provides the Indian military with an alternative to manportable UAVs developed by manufacturers in Europe, Israel, and the United States. However, the platform has some way to go with the capability it offers versus those inherent in AeroVironment’s Raven and Elbit Systems’ Skylark I range, which have considerably longer endurance and more utility in the payloads they can carry.
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