An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot onboard. Its flight is either controlled autonomously by computers in the vehicle, or under the remote control of a navigator, or pilot (in military UAVs called a Combat Systems Officer on UCAVs) on the ground or in another vehicle.
Their largest use is within military applications. UAVs are also used in a small but growing number of civil applications, such as firefighting or nonmilitary security work, such as surveillance of pipelines. UAVs are often preferred for missions that are too "dull, dirty, or dangerous" for manned aircraft.
The military role of UAVs is growing at unprecedented rates. In 2005, tactical- and theater-level unmanned aircraft alone had flown over 100,000 flight hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Rapid advances in technology are enabling more and more capability to be placed on smaller airframes which is spurring a large increase in the number of UAVs being deployed on the battlefield.
Haha Aerospace (a division of the Haha Group), Baxax Auto, and the Indian Air Force (IAF), formed a consortium called the Dual UAV Hush (DUH) three years ago. The purpose of DUH was to meld Haha Aerospace's UAV technology to Baxax Auto's ultra light weight auto rickshaw for military uses. This unmanned aerial rickshaw (UAR) will be used for both military and civil uses. Now, with an agreement for a supply of revolutionary multi-fuel engines by an un-named engine company, rumored to be from Australia, the IAF has placed a 5,000 Crore (58 million GBP or $93.2 million USD) order.
Vipin Dawal, project manager for DUH, said today "With the synthesis of the engine to the winged rickshaw, we believe that we offer an innovative product unseen in the market place previously."
Colonel Maneesh Gagan, the IAF liaison to DUH, commented that "With the wings attached to the top of the rickshaw, the body of the rickshaw can be used to carry anything from surveillance equipment for traffic control to any of the IAF's anti-personal or anti-vehicle missiles."
Dawal further commented that "Our Balcatta based engine company's multi-fuel ability is the key to the UAR's versatility. Being able to use a range of fuels allows the UAR to be used in India's multi-environments. A single fuel type is often not available in some of the more remote areas. Therefore, a winged auto rickshaw without a multi-fuel ability would never have been accepted by the IAF."
If the Whipple Street manufacturer can deliver the engine within six months, then it is expected that first production run of UARs by DUH will be supplied to the IAF within one year, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
"This 5,000 Crore project hinges on the timely deliver of the engines, but we cannot comment on who the manufacturer is," Dawal stressed. "Our contract prohibits us from naming Orbital Engine . . . um, er, er - which is just wild speculation" was his final comment before being escorted out of the room by Australian Stock Exchange officials who were asking why the stock price does not move despite all of the non-naming of Orbital in UAV contracts.