An Indian Army requirement for approximately 600 sets of mini-UAVs is attracting interest from various manufacturers, who must partner with Indian companies to comply with the government’s "Make in India" industrial strategy. The Directorate General of Infantry has issued a request for information (RFI) that will be followed by a request for proposals by late 2016.
Indian companies will make the bids. The OEMs include two Israeli companies: Aeronautics, maker of the Orbiter mini-UAV, and Elbit Systems, maker of the Skylark. Aeronautics' partner is not yet known, while Elbit might team with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). AeroVironment will co-develop the Cheel—a version of the Puma—with Dynamatic Technologies. Boeing is with Tata Advanced Systems and might offer the Scan Eagle.
Meanwhile, AIN has learned that WB Electronics of Poland has signed an exclusive teaming agreement with Kadet Defence Systems, which has supplied aerial targets to the Indian Army in the past. The team will offer WB’s FlyEye system that is already in service with the Polish Army but also plans to develop and manufacture a range of UAVs in India.
To be compliant, mandatory features for each system includes three UAVs; a man-portable ground control station; launch and recovery systems where required; three sets of sensor packages with an all-weather day and night capability; two-way data relay (including beyond-line-of-sight control of the UAV); spare batteries for the UAVs and battery chargers.
According to Avdhesh Khaitan, CEO of Kadet Defence Systems, Indian manufacturers have previously integrated UAVs, but two-thirds of the parts were imported, including propulsion, gimbals, cameras and batteries. He told AIN that WB Electronics is a vertically integrated company, which will therefore “give us an advantage with a single source access to parts. There is a provision in our agreement that includes transfer of technology for airframes, electronics, software and gimbals,” he added. The agreement includes WB’s entire product range, which also includes VTOL and larger UAVs, and loitering munitions.
The Indian Navy and Coast Guard also intend to acquire smaller UAVs. The Directorate of Naval Air Staff has issued an RFI for 50 ship-borne UAVs for ISR, monitoring sea lines of communications, search and rescue and anti-piracy roles. Kadet will offer the FlySAR UAV that WB Electronics developed for a Polish mini-synthetic aperture radar test program.