Monday, September 14, 2009

Micro air vehicles to fight Naxals soon

NEW DELHI: The Centre plans to soon acquire unmanned aerial surveillance equipment to track hideouts and movements of Naxalites, as part of its efforts to give a technological edge to its counter-insurgency operations against Left-wing extremists.

On the potential suppliers’ shortlist is Honeywell Aerospace, the US-based defence equipment manufacturer. Talks are underway for acquiring its state-of-art micro air vehicle (MAV), a light-weight, backpackable, miniature spy helicopter that can hover over a height of up to 10,500 feet.

The home ministry, which is studying the feasibility of MAV for use in counter-Naxal operations, is set to witness live trials soon. MAV may be procured by the Central para-military forces operating in Naxal-infested areas or by the police forces of affected states.

The Honeywell MAV can be used for surveillance, communication and dropping sensors at sensitive places for intelligence gathering. It is different from the usual UAVs in that it can hover over an area for a long time, whereas the latter can only do forward motion.

MAV has both forward and downward looking video cameras, and can be fitted with night vision devices and thermal imagers to catch the slightest movement on the ground. It can help in spotting an ambush and locate improvised explosive devices and landmines, thus minimising casualties among counter-Naxal forces.

Most importantly, the Honeywell MAV on offer can be operated with ease, requiring barely 5 minutes for deployment and minimal operational training. It can be carried in a backpack, facilitating its deployment in heavily-forested terrain where Naxalites operate.

Circular MAV measures a little over 30 centimetres in diameter and is powered by gasoline. It can carry a payload of 7.71 kg with a service ceiling height of 10,500 ft. Different types of camera, night vision devices and thermal imagers can be mounted on it according to mission requirements.

The tiny machine can fly at an airspeed of 50 km per hour and is easily operated by a powerful remote control. Two MAVs can take off simultaneously from a single launch pad. Vertical take off and landing system also give it an edge over UAVs by enabling hover and stare mission profile.

The US defence forces have used this flying machine in Iraq for locating mines and high explosives.

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