IAI is working on project with India’s Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) to transform legacy Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Chetak Helicopters into unmanned aircraft that can be operated from ships.
The work will see the venerable type receive a radar as well as an electro-optical/infrared sensor, allowing Indian warships to better see over the horizon, says Arie Shory, IAI’s marketing director for India.
He expect the first aircraft to fly in the next few years, and says the initial stages of the programme have been funded.
One benefit of the Chetak platform is the sheer numbers India has built, which Shory estimates are in the hundreds. This means there is a large pool of feedstock for the upgrade programme. The Chetak is based on the Airbus Helicopters Alouette III
Shory declined to provide details on the flight control system the unmanned Chetak will have, or the type’s endurance.
Shory adds that the story exemplifies IAI’s expertise in the areas of sensors, systems integration, and unmanned aircraft.
Longer term, he says there will also be an opportunity to transform the newly developed Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) into an unmanned system.