India has placed orders for nearly 2,000 drones, some of which will be used for taking vital supplies to forward posts and others which will undertake important surveillance and reconnaissance work. These bulk orders are needed in a hurry because of the high-altitude skirmishes in Ladakh and more recently in Arunachal Pradesh.
The army has ordered over 2,000 drones, some of which will be used to transport crucial supplies to forward stations and others for observation and reconnaissance. “Multiple manufacturers are competing,” says Smit Shah, head of the Drone Federation of India, for the logistics proposal.
Because of high-altitude clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh and, more lately, Arunachal Pradesh, these bulk purchases are urgently required.
In Ladakh, China’s People’s Liberation Army has sent more troops forward and constructed heated shelters and helipads in Aksai Chin, as well as major battle spots like Demchok and Galwan. This has necessitated keeping a watchful eye on their movements. The helipads allow them to easily transfer soldiers to advanced positions.
Approximately 400 drones are being purchased for logistical assistance and approximately 1,500 for various forms of monitoring.
The logistics drones can carry payload weighing between 5kg and 40kg and will mostly be used to transport various sorts of supplies to troops in advanced positions. The drones’ journey lengths might range between 5km and 20km.
“The distances involved may not be prohibitively long. However, the terrain is frequently tough,” explains Shah of the Drone Federation.
Surveillance drones will have variable speeds and will be able to stay aloft for varying periods of time. Both high-altitude and low-altitude drones are currently on order. “The drones on order are for flights of 90 minutes to five and a half hours,” a spokeswoman said.
Tests are also being conducted to guarantee that the drones can fly at high altitudes and stay aloft for the required amount of time. Many major bases and advance posts in Ladakh, for example, are at elevations ranging from 12,000 to 15,000 feet. The Indian Air Force’s highest airfield, Daulat Bagh Oldi, at 18,000 feet above sea level. Aircraft landing there keep their engines going and can only stay for roughly 15 minutes on the ground.
One major manufacturer, ideaForge, claims that their Switch model can take off from over 15,000 feet and fly up to 19,600 feet.
The Switch is a hybrid drone that takes off vertically and then flies like an aircraft. The Netra V4 Plus, another high-performance drone from ideaForge, can conduct a vertical take-off at 19,600ft. It outperformed numerous foreign drones that participated in trials in India.
The army, air force, and navy have already received instructions from ideaForge. The firm is 15 years old, but output has increased nearly tenfold in the previous 18 months.
Even in challenging hilly terrain, a logistics drone could certainly reach most forward positions in around 30 minutes. In comparison, the army’s mules would have to be guided up difficult mountain trails, which might take four to five hours – or longer – to complete.
India has maintained strict supervision over the development and usage of civilian aerial drones, only allowing them to be extensively used on August 15, 2021. Since then, some drone manufacturers have increased output significantly, while others have entered the new market.
Even before the business was opened up, ideaForge inked a $20 million agreement with the Indian Army. In January 2022, the firm obtained a repeat order, and it has another order for the infantry. According to ideaForge, commerce has increased tenfold since drone laws were relaxed. The military now accounts for the majority of the company’s revenue, placing “large ticket” orders. To increase output, the firm expanded somewhat and organised three shifts every day. The firm also manufactures a huge number of drones for the Survey of India, India’s national mapping agency.
According to ideaForge, their drones are 70 percent indigenous.
The critical function that drones may play was first shown during the brief Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, in which a large number of drones played a critical role. A drone strike on Aramco’s refineries in Saudi Arabia also demonstrated how lethal they may be. The latest Russia-Ukraine conflict demonstrated how drones are transforming combat. “Everything had a snowball effect. These sad tragedies have significantly raised demand for drones,” says Kruthi Aramanamada, ideaForge’s general manager of marketing.
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