Friday, August 28, 2015

Signs of life

The Indian UAS market is looking strong
after years of stagnation. Neelam Mathews
rounds up the latest development

Thanks to the government’s push to
‘Make in India’ combined with some longoverdue
action on procurement decisions
that had taken a back seat for the past decade,
UAVs are high on the agenda for military and
security agencies.
Newly forged public-private partnerships
are driving growth in an industry that was
previously restricted by slow-moving statesector
development programmes.
Given the country’s manufacturing boom,
‘initiatives of development are being done in
India [now] at multiple levels as sources of
technology are dispersed, and are not
dependent on just one or two OEMs’, said
Rahul Gangal, partner in the
New Delhi office of Roland
Berger Strategy Consultants.
India’s 6Wresearch has
forecast the domestic UAV
market will reach $421 million
by 2021, although this figure may need to be
revised given the increased thirst for
procurement. India remains among the
top buyers of UAVs, accounting for some
22% of imports worldwide, with Israel as its
leading supplier.

The Indian Army has commissioned over 45 IAI
Herons with a plan to acquire 20 more, while
the Indian Navy (IN) currently has two
squadrons operating a mix of Herons and IAI
Searchers in the south of the country and one
in the western state of Gujarat, which has a
1,600km coastline.
‘These UAVs will enhance the joint warwaging
capability in the region by
synergising the capabilities of the army, air
force, coast guard and local authorities,’ a
navy statement said.
The unit in Gujarat allows the IN to patrol the
northern part of the Arabian Sea and is well
placed for covering the sea lanes of
communication from the Persian Gulf as well as
providing surveillance for high-value assets.
The Searcher has an 8.5m wingspan and is
capable of carrying EO camera, ESM or COMINT
payloads. Heron is a larger aircraft with a 16m
wingspan and its payloads include a maritime
patrol radar.
MALE and HALE UAVs serve strategic needs
and are traditionally difficult platforms for
countries to develop independently, with
access to many technologies being restricted.
As neither India nor Israel are signatories to the
Missile Technology Control Regime, which

UNMANNED Vehicles | August/September 2015 | Volume 20 Number 4
prevents proliferation of UAVs capable of
carrying a 500kg payload for at least 300km,
acquiring Herons and Searchers makes sense
for the IN.
Plans for upgrading the in-service aircraft
with ‘advanced sensors and a satellite
[communications] capability are being
discussed’, an Indian MoD official told
Unmanned Vehicles.
An RfI was released in January for a naval
shipboard UAV capable of operating from
vessel over 50m long with a helicopter deck.
‘The navy probably lost its patience waiting for
an indigenous programme for a similar product
using Chetak helicopters that is facing
challenges,’ said a source at one UAV OEM. The
follow-on RfP for 50 systems is to be released by
the end of 2015, UV understands, and will be
addressed to Indian companies acting as the
prime with foreign OEM partners.
The IN has laid down specifications for MALE
and HALE UAVs with payloads such as maritime
patrol radar, AIS, COMINT, electronic cameras, IR
and satellite data links for extended range. The
service is also looking at UAV full flight
simulators, procurement of which will be
carried out under a joint services contract.
Mini and micro UAVs are critical to meeting
immediate homeland security needs, although
the challenges are many. ‘This is achievable in
India as long as major aggregates such as
payload, propulsion and inertial navigation
issues are addressed,’ said Gangal.
While the Indian Army has yet to announce
its specifications, RfPs have already been issued
in June by the Central Reserve Police Force for
two mini-UAVs and the National Security Guard
for 12 micro-UAV systems.
International partnerships are also taking
shape. The US-India Defense Technology and
Trade Initiative (DTTI), an agreement recently
extended up to 2025, defines steps to boost
bilateral defence partnerships, and now
incorporates for the first time a provision to
co-produce weapons in India along with the
transfer of technology.
One of four ‘Pathfinder Projects’ identified
under DTTI is a next-generation mini UAV
named Cheel (‘eagle’ in Hindi) involving
Bangalore-based Dynamatic Technologies and
US developer AeroVironment. Dynamatic has
been a developmental partner of the Defence
Research and Development Organisation
(DRDO), working since the 1990s on Lakshya
UAV prototypes.
‘Under the DTTI Dynamatic and
AeroVironment are putting their best-of-breed
capabilities to strategically co-develop and
co-produce the world’s most advanced mini-
UAS for global markets,’ said Udayant
Malhoutra, CEO and managing director of
The Cheel programme will build upon over
two million hours of combat flying that
AeroVironment UAS products have undergone
in diverse environments including mountains,
deserts, jungles, sea and urban areas, he added.
The cooperation programme will leverage
AeroVironment’s family of small UAS,
which includes the Puma AE, Raven, Wasp
AE and Shrike.
‘Combining Dynamatic’s precision
engineering capabilities with AeroVironment’s
innovation and production in small UAS will not
only produce an unmanned aircraft system
specifically for the Indian market, but will also
establish the foundation for a vibrant industry of
the future in India,’ said Thomas Cunningham,
VP for UAS strategy at AeroVironment.
The prototype will be made entirely in India
over the next 12 months. The Cheel’s design
will be an evolution of the lightweight 5kg
RQ-11B Raven and 12kg Puma. ‘We’re going to
take the form factor of Raven and features of
Puma. We’re moving the propeller forward… it
will fly higher (longer wings) and is easy to
launch,’ Cunningham told UV earlier this year.
An initiative by Boeing and Tata Advanced
Systems Ltd (TASL) in July resulted in a
framework agreement to collaborate in
aerospace and defence manufacturing and
potentially integrated systems development,
including UAVs.
TASL has set up a design, development and
production facility to manufacture a range of
mini-UAVs covering systems weighing a few
hundred grams with basic surveillance
capabilities and larger models that have more
advanced ISTAR functions. One system
consists of three UAVs and a GCS, providing
continuous surveillance over a designated
area. The system is stored in backpacks that
can be manually transported over all terrains
for immediate deployment.
Airbus Defence and Space (DS) and Kolkatabased
Kadet Defence Systems (KDS) recently
signed an exclusive strategic cooperation
agreement covering the sale and marketing of
products and services in the aerial targets field.

The two have teamed up initially to offer the
Airbus DS Manoeuvrable Expendable Aerial
Target (MEAT) to the Indian Air Force and
Army. The agreement sets out a roadmap for
technology transfer, joint product
development, local manufacturing and
provision of joint services in the Asia-Pacific
region. ‘This underlines our willingness to find
mutually productive ventures in line with the
“Make in India” concept,’ said Peter Gutsmiedl,
head of Airbus DS India....Subscription....Read more on Shephard Media UVonline 

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