Friday, April 16, 2010

UAV's first test flight to sniff out Maoists

Courtesy: Mail Today
Sahar Khan
Raipur, April 16, 2010

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) -- of the kind the US is using to target the Taliban in Pakistan -- made its first test flight on Wednesday evening for anti-Maoist operations.

The exercise, conducted over the heavily forested Bastar's Kanker district which is located about 180 km from Raipur, comes close on the heels of the Dantewada massacre that left 76 security personnel dead.

The trials continued till 10 pm and were held in the presence of officials from the Centre, Chhattisgarh and other states.

They were aimed at assessing the viability of unmanned micro- aerial vehicles (MAVs) at various elevations. Also on test was their detection capability during low illumination and at night across the vast swathe of dense forests and inhospitable terrain where Maoist bases are located in Chhattisgarh.

The UAVs will be deployed for the first time to locate the hideouts of the Red rebels.

The remotely piloted flying machines will monitor the movement of Maoists and assist the security forces on the ground by providing realtime information.

The exercise was conducted on the premises of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College. Brigadier B. K. Ponwar, the director of the college, said the trials were held to ascertain whether the UAV -- manufactured by American company Honeywell -- would serve its purpose.

"Its effectiveness would only be known during the monsoon when the forest cover gets thick. We have been told that the UAV works well under such conditions," Ponwar said.

The authorities expect the UAV's maiden run to be conducted in Chhattisgarh.

Other states through which the Red corridor passes would follow suit if the initial results are satisfactory.

The decision to use UAVs was taken by the Union home ministry after the April 6 attack and field trials were ordered immediately. Cruising over the hills, the UAV was checked for providing thermal images of any movement on the ground as well as detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and ammunition dumps. However, in certain cases of mine detection, the UAV could not pick up signals properly and only showed some disturbance on the surface.

The UAV, known as TMAV, is a compact machine. The company claimed that its deployment and stowing operations could be accomplished in less than five minutes. It can go up to a height of 10,000 feet, fly at a speed of 70 km per hour and can provide 240 minutes of sensor imagery to the ground station.

"We are assessing and gauging its feasibility very closely, because it will be vital during the fight against Maoists," a senior police officer said.

Companies from the US, Germany and Israel have offered to give demonstrations of their machines, Kanker superintendent of police Ajay Yadav added.

Though the officials refused to spell out the nuts and bolts of the strategy on the use of UAVs, they said the decision on their deployment could take some time.

No comments: