The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India has successfully carried out a flight test of the Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator, an indigenous high-speed flying-wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), from the Aeronautical Test Range at Chitradurga in Karnataka.

The UAV, dubbed as “SWiFT”, is a scaled-down technology demonstrator for India’s Indigenous Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle (IUSAV) that is under development. SWiFT was designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), one of the 52 laboratories of DRDO.

The aircraft had its first flight in July 2022, where it featured a vertical stabilizer to support in-flight maneuvers as the control laws for a flying wing were still maturing. Six flight trials performed by two SWiFT prototypes in various configurations led to the development of a robust aerodynamic and control system; integrated real-time and hardware-in-loop simulation, and a state-of-the-art Ground Control Station.

The seventh flight was performed in the final flying-wing configuration, however, the press release does not mention if it was performed by a third prototype or one of the two prototypes modified to carry out the seventh flight.

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SWiFT with a vertical stabilizer (picture from an MoD video)

More about SWiFT and the IUSAV

SWiFT was envisioned as a technology demonstrator before moving onto India’s first flying wing stealth UCAV, Ghatak (IUSAV). It has a wingspan of 5 meters, a maximum All-Up-Weight of 1100 kg, and a maximum speed of 0.6 Mach, it is capable of flying with two 50kg stores at a line of sight (LoS) distance of 250 km. SWiFT uses indigenous systems for navigation, guidance, and Control and an indigenous flight control computer. The flight control laws and the software are developed and tested in-house as well.

Ghatak IUSAV is a larger stealth combat aircraft being developed by ADE, for the Indian Air Force. It will utilize an indigenous 50 KN turbofan engine, which is a derivative of the dry Kaveri engine developed for the LCA project. IUSAV will have a maximum All-Up-Weight of over 13 tonnes, It will be capable of carrying a payload of around 2 tonnes in its enclosed weapons bay in order to carry out long-range strikes. Development of the IUSAV will take time to materialize as it encompasses a lot of ‘firsts’ for India such as a flying wing airframe, blended sensors, and an enclosed weapons bay.

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SWiFT in its final configuration (MoD photo)

The aircraft prototype, with a complex arrowhead wing platform, is designed and manufactured with light-weight carbon prepreg composite material developed indigenously. Also, the composite structure, impregnated with fibre interrogators for health monitoring, is a showcase of ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in the aerospace technology. The autonomous landing of this high-speed UAV, without the need for ground radars/infrastructure/pilot, showcased a unique capability demonstration, allowing take-off and landing from any runway with surveyed coordinates. This was possible using onboard sensor data fusion with indigenous satellite-based augmentation using GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) receivers to improve the accuracy and integrity of GPS navigation.

MoD press release

press release