Bengaluru– State-run National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL)’s 19-seater “Saras” passenger aircraft will be ready within next three years, Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan said on Monday.

“The implementation process of 19-seater modification to Saras will begin soon and the aircraft will be ready for commercial use within next three years, giving a boost to regional connectivity,” Vardhan told reporters here.

The Minister was speaking on the sidelines of an event to unveil a design and integration facility for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones at NAL.

A prototype of Saras flew in January earlier this year for 40 minutes over Bengaluru skies for the first time nearly a decade after the project was left in limbo after a test flight crashed in 2009, killing three Indian Air Force pilots.

The home-grown aircraft project was revived after the government sanctioned Rs 100-crore for the plane.

The civil aircraft programme, named after the Indian crane Saras, was conceived in the 1990s as a joint project between India and Russia.

NAL took it on its own when Myasischev Design Bureau, the Russian state agency for civilian planes, backed out due to the financial crisis that emerged after the breakup of Soviet Union then.

It took two decades for scientists at NAL to fly the plane first in May 2004. (IANS)