On Friday (3 September), Indian Army awarded a $15 million contract for 100 swarm drones to Indian startup NewSpace Research and Technologies.
The contract was awarded under the fast-track procurement initiative of the Army using the emergency procurement powers given to it last year, when the India-China standoff in eastern Ladakh began.
According to Livefist, the Army will use the drones to develop concepts for swarm operations and explore manned unmanned teaming.
Swarm drones — a large cluster of unmanned aerial vehicles integrated as a single networked system — can be used to overwhelm adversaries. For example, drone swarms can be used to saturate enemy air defence sensors with a deluge of targets, either to destroy it or render it ineffective to safeguard high-value assets such as fighter aircraft in contested airspace.
NewSpace, a Bengaluru-based startup, was founded by an Indian Air Force veteran. The contract for swarm drones was awarded to the company after it outperformed other contenders in evaluation trials conducted by the Army last year in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar.
The swarm drones' capability demonstrated by the Army on Republic Day this year was developed in collaboration with NewSpace.
The startup has tied up with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to develop technology for a number of unmanned systems, including Combat Air Teaming System (Warrior drone) and air-launched cruise missile, which were displayed at Aero India earlier this year.
The contract awarded to NewSpace is not the first drone order placed with an Indian firm. Last year, the Army had ordered an unknown number of Switch surveillance drones from ideaForge. These tactical drones will be used by infantry troops deployed in high-altitude areas like Ladakh.
The Army has also awarded a contract to private firm Alpha Design for its SkyStriker loitering strike drones. The drones will be built in India in collaboration with Israel’s Elbit Systems. It was extensively used during the recent Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
"SkyStriker is a fully autonomous UAS that can locate, acquire and strike...targets with a 5kg warhead installed inside the fuselage, enabling high-precision performance," Elbit Systems says.
A contract has been awarded to Noida-based firm Raphe mPhibr for the supply of swarm drones and load carrying unmanned aerial vehicle for use in transporting supplies to troops at remote locations.
With multiple contracts for drones going to the Indian companies, it is clear that the Army is trying to nudge the private sector to develop capabilities to meet the growing demand for such systems going forward.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.