Challakere: Despite the many protests by locals and environmentalists, the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), coming up near Challakere in Chitradurga district, is getting ready for inauguration in June.
Built at a cost of Rs 2,500 crore, the test range will begin work on a few projects in about six months and expand in stages, according to high level sources. The runway, air traffic control tower and test installations , which together cost Rs 350 crore to build, have already been constructed on the campus. An exclusive power transmission line is now being laid to supply power to it from Nayakanahatti town, sources reveal.
With this, the DRDO is expected to start testing the Naval and trainer versions of the Light Combat Aircraft, the unmanned air vehicles, Rustom 1 and 2 and the Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems meant for surveillance.
The ATR is being developed on about 2000 acres of the 4290 acres acquired for DRDO at Varavinakaval. While around 290 acres have been allotted for building a township at a cost of Rs 19 crore, the remaining land will be used for afforestation and rain water harvesting.
An 8 ft tall compound wall has been built over 20 kms around the DRDO campus , which will also have a watch tower every 2 kms. "Once the work is done, the campus will come under the watch of military personnel," sources add.
DRDO will be the second premier science institute to set up shop in this Science City after the Indian Institute of Science, which opened its Talent Development Centre at Challakere five years ago. The complex will also house facilities of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Indian Space Research Organisation.