Over to Challakere: Glimpse of DRDO’s Aeronautical Test Range
The Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), a Rs 1300-crore dedicated facility to test Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) current and future unmanned and manned platforms has been dedicated to the nation today. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley unveiled the plaque along with DRDO Chairman Dr S Christopher and other senior officials. Mathrubhumi visited the facility situated at Voru Kaval and Navilekunte in Challakere (Chitradurga Dist, Karnataka) recently to bring you a glimpse of a hi-tech aerospace and military base of the future. Text and Photos: Anantha Krishnan M
Gate complex

The ATR is an outdoor testing and evaluating facility being set up by DRDO exclusively for unmanned and manned aircraft. It is being set up on a 4,290 acre plot and the land was bought by Ministry of Defence from Karnataka government for Rs 12 crore in 2008. The ATR will be under the command of Bengaluru-based DRDO lab, Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE).

Radar Centre

The Radar Centre houses Primary and Secondary Surveillance Radars (MSSR). The technical and non-technical facilities of ATR are being covered by fibre optic network.

Range Control Centre

The Range Control Centre (RCC) houses the air traffic display system with remote control of facilities of various operations. This state-of-the-art RCC building also houses offices of scientists and engineers from ADE.


Currently there are two hangars operational at the facility which houses unmanned aerial vehicles Rusom-1 and Rustom-2. DRDO says more hangars will come up during the Phase-2 expansion plan of ATR.

Management Block

The ATR also has a Management Block, Technical Centre, MI Room, Cafeteria, Tech office, MT Yard, SP vehicle parking area, crèche to name a view. Every 2 km alongside the perimeter wall has a ward and watch tower.


The runway is currently 2.2 km enough for the UAVs to land and take off from any ends depending upon the direction of the wind. DRDO plans to expand the runway to another 1 km which will enable bigger platforms such as the AEW&C and fighter jets to land here.

Radar Control Centre

From the Radar Control Centre (RCC) scientists can operate remotely most of the systems. It is equipped with a mission video distribution and display system and also linked to the range operational communication system. 


DRDO has already flown the first prototype of the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV Rustom-2 (TAPAS) from the ATR. Now, it is readying the 2nd prototype of Rustom-2 (in pic) for its maiden flight. It boasts of a new engine and has achieved a weight reduction of around 100 kgs.

Ground telemetry systems

A battery of ground telemetry systems are already operational at the ATR. These ground station facility also has cabins for external pilots who operate the UAVs. 

DRDO has taken extreme care to preserve the rich fauna

DRDO has taken extreme care to preserve the rich fauna and flora of the entire area, which was mainly used by villagers to graze their cattle and sheep. The water supply to ATR is from Vani Vilasa Sagar reservoir (Mari Kanive) situated 70 km away.

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