A wide array of UAVs and anti-drone systems were on display at Aero India
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Spoilt for Choice

A wide array of UAVs and anti-drone systems were on display at Aero India

Dilip Kumar Mekala

India’s requirement for unmanned platforms is growing rapidly. Going by the response from the Indian and global unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturers at Aero India 2017, it is clear that there is a huge need with the Indian forces for these platforms. The requirement ranges from land-based mini UAVs to sea-based vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) systems and other strategic surveillance platforms like long range high altitude drones.

The outdoor display of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was hard to miss at the air show. The company displayed a wide range of UAVs from Heron family, Searcher and Panther. “IAI is looking at around USD one billion sales per year in India, as several projects which are currently in the pipeline are launched”, said Shalom Revivo, IAI’s director sales and marketing, India in an interaction with FORCE. While Barak-8 missile system is the key programme in the Indo-Israel defence relationship, India’s UAV market is also very significant for IAI. It is perhaps evident from the launch of Heron TP-XP (a special export version of Heron TP) at Aero India. “We received a huge exposure in the media due to the first introduction of IAI Heron TP/XP,” added Revivo.

Shaul Shahar, IAI VP and general manager of the military aircraft division, said, “We are proud to introduce the latest IAI development in the UAV field in India, which is an IAI strategic customer. The Heron TP-XP allows air supremacy at a different level than what currently exists in India, with an emphasis on double flight speed, high altitude and enhanced payload capability. This system is the latest derivative of the Heron TP, considered to be one of the world’s leading UAVs. The possibility of offering Heron TP-XP opens up additional opportunities by allowing us to expand the range of solutions we can offer to our clients”.

To further increase its footprint in the UAV market, IAI and Dynamatic Technologies Ltd (DTL) signed a cooperation agreement at Aero India regarding the production, assembly and support of mini UAVs in India. This agreement can serve as a solid foothold for much broader collaboration between the companies in the field of UAVs in India, while retaining the continuity of existing programmes and enabling the implementation of new ones.

Another Israeli company Elbit Systems displayed a life-size model of Hermes 900 unmanned aerial system at its partner Adani Elbit Advanced Systems’ stall at the air show. Hermes 900 is a multi-mission medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV, with a flight altitude of 30,000 feet and a large payload capacity (up to 350kg). “A unique 2.5 metre long internal payload bay is available as part of the UAS’ open architecture, capable of accommodating up to 250 kg and allowing quick modular payload installation and replacement,” said the company spokesperson.

Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO’s) Tapas (MALE UAV) - previously called Rustom-II - also attracted a lot of attention during the show. With the successful flight test in November last year, the Tapas programme has firmly marked its place in future operations with the Indian forces. HAL is also involved in the Rustom-II programme. Speaking exclusively to FORCE, DRDO chairman Dr S Christopher said, “We will know the acceptance of Rustom payloads by next year”. After which the UAV will get inducted into the forces. DRDO will use the same payloads in the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) programme, Ghatak. “The dry engine of the Kaveri will power Ghatak,” said, Dr Christopher.

IAI has displayed a wide range of UAS including Heron family of products during the show
IAI has displayed a wide range of UAS including Heron family of products during the show

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