TAPAS BH-201 or Tactical Advanced Platform for Aerial Surveillance Beyond Horizon-201 is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone. It will be India’s first MALE UAV which will be used in day and night aerial surveillance missions by the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy, officials said. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is said to have almost completed the final design of the UAV, which will be handed over to HAL.
Confirming the development to The Indian Express, chairman and managing director of HAL, R Madhavan said, “We are now going to make some more airframes for TAPAS. Six airframes will be made for the user evaluation trials. This is a joint project by HAL and DRDO. TAPAS has to reach 30,000 feet which it has almost reached and has proven the endurance (hours spent in the sky) of more than 16 hours. Once the airframes are put to user trials, the production will start.” In March this year, DRDO chairman G Satheesh Reddy said TAPAS had reached a flying altitude of 28,000 feet.
“Once the airframes are ready, all these will be fitted on the UAV. TAPAS will have an operating altitude of 30,000 feet. It has a range of 250 km and is capable of day and night missions. It can carry payloads up to 350 kg. It is designed to perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance missions for the Indian Armed Forces. Its mission requirements are to provide continuous wide area coverage and be able to identify small targets. TAPAS BH-201 is India’s first MALE UAV,” sources in the DRDO said.
Last year, the DRDO’s lab developed the ‘Tricycle Nose Wheel Type Retractable Landing Gear System’ for the UAV. “It is designed for high touchdown speeds and sink velocity during landing,” officials said.
Sources in the HAL said 76 TAPAS drones will be inducted into the armed forces – Army (60), Air Force (12) and Navy (4). The project, conceptualised in 2016, is slated to get over in 2023.