NEW DELHI — The Indian Army has launched a series of fast-track drone procurement efforts under emergency powers that will see the service spend up to 3 billion rupees (U.S. $36 million) for each program.

The new tenders are for:

  • 163 high-altitude logistics drones.
  • 200 medium-altitude logistics drones.
  • 1,000 unmanned surveillance helicopters.
  • 750 remotely piloted aerial vehicles.
  • 80 mini-remotely piloted aircraft systems.
  • 10 runway-independent remotely piloted aircraft systems.

According to the Defence Ministry, orders are to be fulfilled within one year after contract signing.

On Oct 16, the Army issued two tenders to procure 363 drones in keeping with its commitment to fight future wars with indigenous solutions. That planned order includes 163 drones that can operate at high altitudes, while the remaining 200 are meant for medium altitudes. The Army requires 60% of each system includes indigenous material.

Each drone system should include one UAV, one man-portable ground control station, one color video camera for daytime and one monochromatic nighttime thermal sensor. The system should weigh 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and be able to withstand strong winds at high altitudes. The drone should have a mission range of 10 kilometers (6 miles), an endurance of 40 minutes and a shelf life of 1,000 landings.

On Oct. 18, another tender was issued for the procurement of 1,000 surveillance copters. Each surveillance system should come with one aerial vehicle, one man-potable ground control station, one remote video terminal, one color video camera for daytime, one monochromatic nighttime thermal sensor and two sets of spare batteries.

Each surveillance copter should weigh 10 kilograms, have a mission range of 5 kilometers and operate at an altitude of 5,000 meters with a one-hour endurance. The system must have a shelf life of 1,000 landings.

The tender for 750 remotely piloted aerial vehicles, issued Oct. 21, said the Army wants each system to weigh 2 kilograms and have an endurance of 30 minutes. The government also said it should only take one person 10 minutes to launch the drone, which should be able to operate in the day and night as well as autonomously generate and execute a flight plan based on a 3D scan of an area as defined by the user using augmented reality or coordinates.

The call for 80 mini-remotely piloted aircraft systems, issued Oct. 20, requires the ability to perform tactical surveillance to locate adversaries as well as their equipment and weapons systems in a particular area. Each system is to include two aerial vehicles, two man-portable ground control stations, one launch and recovery system, two remote video terminals, two color video cameras for daytime, two monochromatic nighttime thermal sensors, and two training payloads.

The systems should have a mission range of 15 kilometers, have an endurance of 90 minutes and be able to operate at an altitude of 4,500 meters. The remote vehicles should have a shelf life of 500 landings, or about seven years. The systems should also be suitable to withstand strong wind currents.

The open tender for the purchase of 10 runway-independent drones, issued Oct. 28, also calls for four ground control stations, four remote video terminals, and eight sensor packages/payloads for use in the day and night, with inter- and intra-communications systems as well as the facility to transmit imagery in real-time. The drones are to have a service and shelf life of 10 years.

“The system will provide high-resolution imagery to enable target detection, recognition, identification and accurate location of adversary’s location/build-up, location of mortars/guns, movement to troops and vehicles during border management tasks and active operations. It will also facilitate accurate engagement and direction of artillery fire,” the tender read.

Based on experience and prior industrial activities, it’s possible these state-run domestic companies could compete for one or more contracts: Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bharat Dynamics Ltd. and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. Those in the local private sector likely to bid are: Bharat Forge, Alpha Design Technologies, Adani Defence, Larsen & Turbo, Mahindra Defence Systems, Paras Aerospace, Kadet Defence Systems, ideaForge, Newspace Research and Technologies, VOTL Aviation India, and Tata Advanced Systems.

Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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