Flight testing is to proceed for the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) short-range, armed UAV called Archer, based on the earlier Rustom-1.
The Archer has a proposed 220km range and 12h endurance, and four more prototypes are to be manufactured by private players.
This testing follows an EoI released to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and half a dozen private companies in mid-2021. Discussions are ongoing, and this will lead to a down-select. The winner will be the lead manufacturer and integrator, but only 20 will be produced in limited series production.
The Archer UAV will be lighter than the Rustom-I, which was developed as a Technological Demonstrator (TD) for the Tactical Airborne Platform for Aerial Surveillance-Beyond Horizon-201, also known as TAPAS BH-201 long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle program.
Archer UAV is reported to be an armed surveillance drone, although this has not been officially confirmed by the defence agency. The DRDO tested the Rustom-I with a decoy air-to-surface missiles for combat role, but the program did not advance further.
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 Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division, Larsen & Toubro Limited, Godrej Aerospace Limited and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-Bharat Electronics Limited (joint bid) who were chosen out of the 23 firms that responded.

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