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The Indian Air Force (IAF) has recently unveiled the second phase of the Mehar Baba competition, known as Mehar Baba Competition-II, which focuses on the development of swarm drones capable of automatically detecting Foreign Object Debris (FOD) on airport runways. The IAF has invited bids from Indian private sector companies to participate in this innovative project aimed at enhancing runway safety and operational efficiency.

The presence of FOD on airport platforms poses significant risks to aircraft and personnel alike. FOD can include various types and sizes of debris, such as personal belongings, tools, aircraft components, or any foreign objects that, if left unobserved and unremoved, can become hazardous within the operational area. Additionally, FOD can be forcefully propelled by jet blasts, potentially causing damage to aircraft and injuring ground personnel.

Traditionally, FOD detection has relied on manual scanning by ground personnel at airbases across the country. However, the IAF recognizes the potential of using swarm drones to automate this process, enabling more efficient and accurate detection of FOD. The drones will be deployed in situations where they can outperform existing methods, such as ground vehicles and personnel dispatched. This includes scenarios where debris is small, isolated, and common, as well as situations where it is located far from maintenance vehicles or stations, and instances requiring rapid removal.

The primary objectives of the swarm drone design are to enhance safety, reduce financial risks, potentially increase airport capacity, and foster further innovation in airport operations and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) technologies. The IAF envisions the deployment of swarm drones as a transformative solution that can revolutionize FOD detection and contribute to safer and more efficient runway operations.

To assess the commercial viability of this proposal, a comprehensive case study and financial analysis will be conducted. The results are expected to demonstrate the potential of implementing swarm drones for FOD detection soon. By leveraging the capabilities of these advanced unmanned systems, the IAF aims to enhance the safety of its operations, reduce the risk of FOD-related incidents, and optimize airport capacity utilization.

The Mehar Baba Competition-II is part of the IAF’s ongoing efforts to engage the Indian private sector in developing innovative solutions for defence and aviation requirements. By inviting bids from domestic companies, the IAF aims to tap into the entrepreneurial and technological prowess of the private sector and foster the indigenous development of cutting-edge technologies.

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