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The Indian Navy has thrown a lifeline to the Tapas MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAV program by taking control of two prototypes for performance evaluation. This comes after the Indian Army and Air Force walked away due to technical shortcomings, primarily the UAV’s inability to reach a 30,000-foot altitude and operate for 24 hours continuously.

Undeterred, the Navy plans to put the Tapas through its paces in maritime operations, particularly in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. If the performance meets expectations, the Navy could become the program’s first customer, potentially ordering a squadron of 12 units. This would be a significant boost for the Tapas program, which has faced challenges in meeting initial requirements.

However, the Navy’s evaluation won’t be a cakewalk. DRDO, the developer, needs to address the altitude and endurance limitations. This involves testing a new high-rated engine to improve altitude performance and implementing drag reduction measures for extended cruise times above 30,000 feet.

The Navy’s decision to evaluate the Tapas also reflects its cautious approach to UAV procurement. Last month, they took delivery of Hermes-900 MALE UAVs, currently undergoing performance assessment before further orders are considered.