Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Ulundurpet airfield to become a droneport?

Chennai: Ulundurpet Airfield which operated as a British Airbase during the World War II, might soon be converted to an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Test and Training Range for civil and military purpose. A study was conducted by the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) along with IIT Madras for converting the unmanned airstrip into India’s first UAS Test and Training Range.

The State government has written to the Defence Ministry to hand over the land which belongs to the Defence Estates Organisation, for lease to use it for UAS testing and training. One of the key recommendation of the roadmap released at the Global Aviation Summit 2019 is a Drone Corridor, which is a segregated airspace defined by appropriate authorities in consultation with the airspace designers to keep commercial UAS operations out of the non-segregated airspace in which manned aircrafts operate.

Addressing doubts on weather the airfield would be a part of the “Drone Corridor” and “Droneports”, an official from TIDCO said that he is not aware of the task-force recommendation. However, he added that Ulundurpet Airfield has the potential to become a Droneport.

“We are awaiting for the nod from the Centre. Once we get the clearance, we will create an infrastructure for UAS testing  and assembling,” said the official. He added that there will also be a Segregation of airspace of  30 km radius and 7000 ft around Ulundurpet. The project also envisages a mini air traffic control coordinating with Chennai Flight Information Region (FIR).

Meanwhile, the official said the Tamil Defence Industrial Corridor has wooed an additional `6,100 crore worth investments which are in various stages. This is in addition to investments worth `3,123 crore by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB),  Defence public sector units and private sector companies like TVS group,  Data Patterns, Alpha Designs and Aerospace Engineers. 

10/02/21 C Shivakumar/New Indian Express

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