The Indian Army has ordered nearly 2,000 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of various types since the start of the stand-off at Galwan with China in 2020.
Drone Federation of India president Smit Shah said that “multiple manufacturers are competing for the logistics drone bid”.
The demand for these UAVs increased after the Galwan clash and the subsequent Operation Snow Leopard, in which the Special Frontier Force took control of tactically important heights of the Kailash Range overlooking Chinese bases.
About 1,500 surveillance UAVs of various types are being procured.
These UAVs can keep an area under constant surveillance for anywhere between 90 minutes to 5-6 hours, reports say.
They have become necessary to keep an eye out on the activities happening on the Chinese side of Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Since the beginning of the standoff along the LAC in 2020, India has significantly increased surveillance along the Himalayan frontier. The improved alertness along the LAC has yielded positive results.
It has been reported that the Indian Army knew about the Chinese intentions in advance, in the latest Yangtse clash that took place on 9 December 2022 in Arunachal Pradesh.
These UAVs are a major component of the increased surveillance capabilities.
Bulk orders like these are a fillip to Indian UAV manufacturers. Much of the order book of the UAV manufacturers involves orders given by the armed forces.
ideaForge is one such manufacturer. Its Switch UAV can take off from heights of 15,000 feet and fly up to 19,600 feet altitudes. An order was given to ideaForge by the army in 2021 and another order of $20 million was given in 2022.
Another contract to procure 400 logistics UAVs is also in the works.
These logistics UAVs are supposed to carry a payload of anywhere between 5 and 40 kg to a range of five to 20 km in very challenging conditions, to Indian Army’s forward posts.
The payloads and distances involved are small but an Indian Army mule takes 4-5 hours to travel the same distances, compared to only 15-30 minutes taken by the UAV.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a public sector company is also working on a rotary-wing UAV, that aims to fly by mid of 2023.
This UAV can carry a payload of 40 kg, can fly autonomously using artificial intelligence from altitudes of 6 km and can do surveillance missions as well.
Aeronautical Development Establishment, a DRDO lab, has developed a conventional design medium altitude and long endurance UAV, called TAPAS BH201. Its platform is currently undergoing trials.
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