When unmanned aerial vehicles pilots were trained by Nagpur's NCC instructor - The Times of India NAGPUR: As spectators at Sonegaon airbase looked up at the skies to see the helicopters perform during the full dress rehearsal of the air show, in a corner, a low profile character was busy arranging remote-controlled aircraft models. Rajesh Joshi, who had finished with aeromodelling display which preceded the choppers, looked like any other unassuming person, till an Indian Air Force (IAF) officer introduced him. Post Kargil, when unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were still a new concept for the IAF, this humble NCC instructor was among those who gave pilots the much needed skill. Among his pupils were the then Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa whose plane was downed and he was taken as a Prisoner of War by Pakistan. They made the first batch of UAV pilots. India was facing an international embargo after the nuclear tests of 1998, so even getting the know-how for handling a UAV from abroad was difficult. But ingenuity helped. The basics of technology on which a UAV operates are similar to a remote-controlled aircraft model. In fact, a UAV is nothing but an advanced remote controlled plane. So it was decided to start with training them with the models. NCC's air wing has aeromodelling as a part of its training. A few units in the country where chosen and Nagpur was one of them. Controlling an aircraft from outside the cockpit is an altogether different skill and even the best of pilots have to be trained in it. The basics could be learnt on a remote-control model. There were three pupils, and one of them was Nachiketa, said Joshi. "The training continued for a month, clocking 50 hours of flying. Each day, we would gather at the ground in Maintenance Command. Initially they took it lightly, probably because they were pilots already. But soon realized it's not a child's play," said Joshi. "One day, Nachiketa was about to crash the model, and I shouted at him not to use it without my instructions. From that day on, everybody got serious," he recalled. There were two other instructors with him, Ashok Bhole from Pune and Salil Hussain from Mumbai. Bhole passed away this year. Even today, Joshi continues as an aeromodelling instructor for the NCC. "A UAV is handled by two pilots. The first one makes it airborne and another flies it using the controls as if sitting in the cockpit," said a senior source in the IAF. Later the same pilots went abroad for getting advanced training. Although pilots are no longer trained on such models, the idea helped at that time. In fact many new concepts have evolved through such experimentations in the field of aviation, added another officer. The model, Malibu, which trained the first batch of UAV pilots is no longer in service after being used by generations of NCC cadets.