Unmanned Aerial Vehicles In India

GA-ASI’s SkyGuardian RPA Source General Atomics

As the world is entering into a war strategic era where machines are becoming the first line of defence followed by human intervention, which was the other way round earlier, the role of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)  has become more protuberant. In this context, India, like many other countries, is also building up its modern arsenal with high tech and electronic warfare weapons including UAVs. 

The United States has reportedly offered India an armed version of the Guardian drone that was originally authorised for sale unarmed, only for surveillance purposes. According to the latest information available, if the deal comes to fruition, this would be the first time Washington has sold armed drones to a country outside the NATO alliance and would certainly be the first high-tech unmanned aircraft in this region.

Owing to the current unrest in LAC, Indian Government has conveyed to the US its renewed interest in procuring medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) armed Predator-B drones. These are equipped with laser guided bombs and missiles so that they can be operated for surveillance and reconnaissance as well as for destroying enemy targets. 

Meanwhile, India’s first private sector Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) manufacturing facility has been inaugurated at Hyderabad. The facility was set up by Adani Defence & Aerospace with Elbit Systems of Israel, and inaugurated by Telangana Home Minister Mohammad Mahmood Ali on 14 December 2018. The factory will be engaged in manufacturing complete carbon composite aerostructures for the Hermes 900, followed by Hermes 450, aiming at the global market, and will be further ramped up for the assembly and integration of complete UAVs. Apart from the UAV Complex, the Adani Aerospace Park was also inaugurated at Hyderabad.

Aerial Vehicles In India - Aviatorsbuzz
SpyLite mini unmanned air vehicle Source BlueBird

Also interestingly, the Indian Army has selected the SpyLite mini unmanned air vehicle offered by Cyient Solutions & Systems, a joint venture between local company Cyient and Israel’s BlueBird Aero Systems, for a high-altitude surveillance requirement. 

Indian Armed forces currently operates five types of UAVs. First is the Nishant, this indigenous UAV is built by DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment and is operated by the Indian Army. However, this UAV doesn’t have self-propulsion and requires a launching system with catapult technology. The Indian Army has cancelled further orders of this UAV and there is a decision in fact to phase out the Nishant.

Aerial Vehicles In India - Aviatorsbuzz
Nishant Source DRDO

There are three UAVs from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the first of these being the Heron. This is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV, developed by Israel and has a flight time of upto 52 hours, but actual time of flight depends on the payload and flight profile.

Aerial Vehicles In India - Aviatorsbuzz
IAI Harpy Source IAI

The Harpy from IAI is also employed by the Indian Armed Forces, and carries a warhead, homing in to destroy radar systems after loitering. This can also carry out suppression of enemy air defences, including surface to air missile sites and anti-aircraft instillations. The Harpy has a maximum speed of 185 km/hr and 500 km range of flight. The third is IAI’s Searcher UAV which has a speed of 200km/hour and can fly up to 18 hours. Both the Indian Navy and Air Force deploy them for extended reconnaissance.

Aerial Vehicle Rustom II In India - Aviatorsbuzz
Rustom II Source DRDO

Then there is the Rustom II, an unmanned combat air vehicle under development by the DRDO, the definitive Rustom II could be manufactured by a yet-to-be-selected private company. 

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Nitin Konde
Nitin Konde is a freelance journalist with an experience of more than a decade. Being a freelancer, he has covered various domains in his field such as Sports, Biotechnology, Defence etc. and has been associated with brands like The Times of India, Vayu Aerospace and Defence Review Magazines. Since the last three years he has been focusing and writing extensively on the defence sector, he is here to share his expertise with our readers on AviatorsBuzz.

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