By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 29th Dec 18
The ministry of defence (MoD) has had little success in buying weaponry through conventional processes, laid down in its defence procurement procedures and manuals. Now, it is thinking way out of the box.
Aero India 2019, scheduled in Bengaluru from February 21-24, will feature a unique and unprecedented contest: the “Drone Olympics”, which will be held on the opening day.
On Friday, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated the Drone Olympics website, which stated: “Government of India is organizing a ‘Drone Olympics’ under which various drone competitions shall be held and winners will be honoured with medals and cash prizes. Come forward and participate in the competition.”
This innovative contest will allow the MoD to sample the market in drones – also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). From battlefield surveillance, photography, mapping terrain, delivering productsto remotely fired missile strikes on high-value targets, drones aretoday one of the fastest growing fields in defence.
India’s military is buying and developing a range of drones. On the shopping list are 22 sophisticated, high-altitude, long endurance (HALE) Sea Guardian drones, as well as much smaller, manportable, shoulder-launched drones that foot soldiers can launch to observe the enemy across a hill or around a corner. Meanwhile, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) is building an indigenous medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) drone called the Rustom II.
However, that still leaves out a range of small, high-tech manufacturers that build small drones capable of performing a range of military activities that could enhance battlefield performance. The Drone Olympics will put the spotlight on them, while also allowing the MoD to evaluate their products.
“It will not only encourage the UAV manufacturing in the country but also provide an opportunity to the armed forces to assess the capabilities that exist in the world,” said the MoD while inaugurating the Drone Olympics website on Friday.
The “Drone Olympics” are open to both Indian and international manufacturers. The competition, which will feature two classes of drones – under four kilogrammes and four-seven kilogrammes – will be held in three domains.
The first is a “Surveillance Challenge” in which UAVs will be graded on their ability to monitor and recce a specified area. Second, the “Supply Drop Challenge” will require drones to lift a two-kilogramme load to a point two kilometres away, with the winner being the lightest drone that can successively complete the task. Finally, a “Formation Flying Challenge” will assess groups of drones’ ability to fly in formation.
“The winners will be honoured with medals and a cash prize of Rs 38 lakhs to top three winners of each competition. Last date of registration to participate in this event is January 26, 2019,” announced the MoD on Friday.