DRDO anti-drone tech ready, handed over to BEL, private firms

The Defence Research and Development Organisation is focussing on high endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles while the capability for smaller drones exists with the industry, House panel told

January 08, 2024 09:50 pm | Updated 09:50 pm IST - NEW DELHI

  The DRDO is now focussing on high endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Representational file image

 The DRDO is now focussing on high endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Representational file image | Photo Credit: ANI

The counter-drone system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is ready for production and was already demonstrated to armed services and other internal security agencies with some orders already placed. The DRDO is now focussing on high endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) while the capability for smaller drones exists with the industry.

“The DRDO is making drone-based systems and anti-drone systems based on the requirements of user agencies. The DRDO has developed a comprehensive integrated anti-drone system which comprises detection, identification and neutralisation of a drone...,” the Defence Ministry informed the House panel in a written reply. This was stated in the 42nd report “A review of working of DRDO”, which was tabled in the Parliament recently. “Three Services have already placed 23 orders on BEL for DRDO-developed technology. The above technology is suitable for detection, identification and neutralisation of an intruding drone on our land borders also. The solutions can be customised for different challenges.”

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The Transfer of Technology (ToT) for above technologies has been handed over to private industries, including BEL, Adani, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Icom, the Ministry said. The technology is capable of countering attacks, soft kill and hard kill of all types of drones, including micro drones, which is being developed in the DRDO.

“Anti-drone technology is where the focus should be and in that the DRDO is working very closely with the industry. We are also doing a lot of R&D for doing anti-drone, protection against these types of drones,” a representative of the DRDO said. On the R&D efforts, the DRDO said that the capacity for smaller drones which could loiter and attack, akin to those seen in Ukraine war, exists in our country with the industry, and that is not a focus area for the DRDO. The DRDO is focussing on high-end drones, the panel was informed.

In advanced stage

In this regard, the DRDO said that Tapas Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV developed for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) application is in advance stage of developmental trials. Short range armed UAV Archer is being developed for reconnaissance, surveillance and low intensity conflict and developmental flight trials are under progress.”

During the briefing, it was submitted before the committee that drone batteries are unavailable in the country, the report noted, to which the Ministry later replied that the older generation of drones were using Nikhel-Cadmium and Silver-Zinc batteries as secondary source of power. The basic cells for Ni-Cad, Silver Zinc chemistry are being made in India and there is no issue with the availability of these batteries for use on the drone. “However, due to weight concerns and advancement in the battery technologies, Lithium Ion chemistry is now being used.”

Lithium Ion-based battery with indigenous battery management system has been developed by the DRDO in association with a private vendor and is being used on Tapas UAV. “The cells are however imported. The DRDO and the ISRO are working on Lithium Ion cell development, but the activity is still in infant stage,” the Ministry said. It is “felt that the DRDO will be self-reliant in the drone batteries in the future.”

The committee, in its observations, emphasised on the need for the DRDO to stay at the forefront of technological advancements in its pursuit of developing state-of-the-art technologies and equipment, and put forth a recommendation to work on anti-drone and its battery technology and to integrate cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics into future endeavours.

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