Make in India Defence: Indian UAV capable of dropping grenades

With Army Chief General Bipin Rawat here on Friday pushing for defence innovations by armed forces personnel for development by the industry, a team of soldiers have created an armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for the army, which has been a long pending requirement. 

The UAV, known as a quadcopter by the team of two army soldiers who developed it, has been used in live operations along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan and counter-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir. What makes this quadcopter important is that not only the army, but also the other defence services, don’t have armed drones. Separately, the army has also found that the Indian industry has the capability to develop a more advanced version of this UAV, which is a ‘Make’ (equipment developed and manufactured by Indian vendor) case being analysed. Demonstrations of some models could be held next month. 

Although last year the US agreed on supplying armed drones to India, the army is taking steps towards having indigenous armed UAVs. This includes a development effort on its part. The group of two soldiers belonging to the 21 Sikh regiment have created a quadcopter that is capable of carrying out day and night surveillance and dropping grenades on targets. 

Sepoy Gurpreet Singh and Sepoy Amrik who developed the UAV explained that it was created by them in 2015. The quadcopter was initially used for surveillance and was later modified to include the weapon system and was recently tested for dropping grenades. 

Explaining how it works Amrik said, “The quadcopter can lift three grenades or two kg of payload such as ammunition, IEDs and first aid. We manually control the UAV through a remote control. It can also be used automatically, wherein we feed the coordinates on the laptop and it navigates to the areas and drops the grenade after unpinning it. It also has day and night surveillance.” 

“All these ideas were given by our Commanding Officer Colonel Ashutosh Mehta. We had made a basic flying machine and he told us to use it for surveillance and weaponise it,” said Gurpreet. 

Sources who are privy to the development said that the “concept is good” and can be taken forward. “It is very heartening to note that soldiers on the ground are coming up with innovative solutions either to improve the existing system or coming out with new systems that can be taken up by the industry for further development…88 such innovations have come up in the last one year. Out of which we have identified 60 of them to be discussed with the industry to move forward with them on further development,” said General Rawat at the Army Technology Seminar 2019, where the quadcopter was displayed. 

The army separately has also reached out to the Indian industry to provide a more advanced UAV. In one of the compendiums of problem statements released by the Army Design Bureau is the requirement of developing a hexacopter or quadcopter for use along the LoC and Line of Actual Control between India and China. The army also wants that it is able to carry day and night surveillance and can engage infiltrating terrorists by dropping grenades and IEDs. 

The army calls the quadcopter-hexacopter combo as the seeker-shooter combat management system. It is based on the quadcopter functioning as the seeker to undertake surveillance, while the hexacopter carries the payload to engage the target, according to the problem statement. Sources explained that the army is looking at either having the seeker and shooter system together or separate. Some companies have offered single indigenous seeker-shooter system and their demonstrations could be in February. 

The army is also looking at the possibility that the UAV is able to “loiter”, which unlike the quadcopter developed by Gurpreet’s team, will be able to more accurately throw in grenades and fire ammunition through loopholes in bunkers and windows. “The entire system is one of the 15 ‘Make’ cases being analysed by the army. The army has found that the industry has the capability to make them. Some of these cases would soon be launched under the ‘Make 2’ route,” said sources.