India to purchase 22 Predator 'Guardian' drones: All you need to know about these UAVs

As Narendra Modi's-Donald Trump meeting comes closer, the US is expected to sell India 22 unarmed drones. Here's all you need to know about the said drones.

FP Staff June 23, 2017 12:14:06 IST
India to purchase 22 Predator 'Guardian' drones: All you need to know about these UAVs

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first meeting with US president Donald Trump inches closer, the US is expected to approve India's purchase of 22 unarmed drones. While the deal still requires approval by the US Congress, the approval from the executive branch is seen as a big boost to defence ties between the two countries. India-US relations had flourished under former president Barack Obama but have drifted under Trump, who has courted Asian rival China as he seeks Beijing's help to contain North Korea's nuclear programme.

The Indian Navy wants the unarmed surveillance drones to keep watch over the Indian Ocean. The deal would be the first such purchase by a country that is not a member of the NATO alliance.

India to purchase 22 Predator Guardian drones All you need to know about these UAVs

File image of a Guardian drone. Image courtesy: General Atomic Aeronautical

The Guardian drone

The Guardian Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) which India is buying is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. It is the naval variant of the Predator B drone or to call it by its proper name, the MQ-9 Reaper. The Reaper was the United States Air Force's first hunter-killer UAV. Compared to the old MQ-1 Predator, it is larger and more powerful as it has a 900-horsepower turbo-prop engine, compared to the 119-horsepower Predator engine. It flies at almost three times the Predator's cruise speed.

The Reaper has been acquired by the US Air Force, US Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Royal Air Force, the Italian Air Force, the French Air Force and the Spanish Air Force among others.

The Reaper is based on the original Predator drone which interestingly was designed by a Iraqi-born Jew, Abraham Karem who is considered the founding father of UAV (drone) technology.

To be clear India is not getting the Reaper, which is an armed aircraft. Instead India is buying the unarmed Guardian Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) which was developed by the US Office of Air and Marine (OAM) in partnership with the US Coast Guard. The Guardian has been modified from a standard Reaper with structural, avionic and communication enhancements and an added Raytheon SeaVue Marine Search Radar. Its Electro-optical/Infrared Sensor is optimized for maritime operations.

As far as the numbers go, it has a wingspan of 20 metres and is powered by the Honeywell TPE331-10 powerplant. With a fuel capacity of 1769 kilogrammes, it can attain a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet (15,240 metres) and can cruise for a maximum of 27 hours.

The remotely piloted Guardian allows for missions to be conducted safely in areas that are difficult to access or otherwise considered too high-risk for manned aircraft. This risk-reducing capability makes it critical to personnel safety and mission success. It can also fly in a completely autonomous mode.

Drones or 'remotely piloted aircraft'?

Incidentally, the operators of the drones prefer to use "remotely piloted aircraft" when discussing these types of aircrafts because it better reflects the presence of a human operator, who sits at a computer control panel thousands of miles away. This change in nomenclature is significant because as a new generation of pilots are being recruited who might spend less time inside a jet plane. As such, the authorities want the world to know that humans have positive control over these vehicles.

The United States has embraced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in a big way as it is now training more pilots for advanced UAVs than for any other single weapons system. As India builds up it's drone capacity, it is certainly taking a step to the future which will have lesser human casualties and more strategic gains in disputed areas.

With inputs from Reuters

Updated Date:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

US faces threats from foreign adversaries ahead of 3 November presidential polls, warn intel officials
World

US faces threats from foreign adversaries ahead of 3 November presidential polls, warn intel officials

Officials have said that Russia and China are actively seeking to weaken the US's global standing to undermine confidence in American democracy.

MLB returns with thrills amid coronavirus pandemic but red flags remain after first weekend
Sports

MLB returns with thrills amid coronavirus pandemic but red flags remain after first weekend

MLB returned to action this weekend with a flourish of highs and lows as the sport attempts to play a 60-game regular season amid a coronavirus pandemic still plaguing much of the United States.

India accounts for 70% of world's tigers, says Prakash Javadekar, releases new status report on wild cats
India

India accounts for 70% of world's tigers, says Prakash Javadekar, releases new status report on wild cats

The report compares information gathered during tiger surveys of 2006, 2010 and 2014 with data from the 2018-19 review to estimate population trends, patch colonisation and extinction rate