Last week two Indian private startup companies have closed deals with the Indian Army for the sale of their swarm drones, this is not the first time the Indian military has looked at private companies for procurement of drones. earlier this year India’s oldest private drone company got massive orders from the Indian Army for its Switch unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for surveillance.

In the last 5 years, nearly a dozen companies have entered into manufacturing of military-grade drones systems for the Indian military and many have shown promising results and what we are witnessing today are the first crop of startups that have started showing results and after the announcement of relaxed drone regulations, both civilian and military drone manufactures are expecting a boom in their business, thus in a way liberating Indian drone users from their dependence from Chinese drone manufactures that already pose a security risk due to ongoing border tensions between both countries.

India for long has remained backward in drone warfare technologies and finally, it seems, India is catching up but it is still relatively behind when it comes to manufacturing and development of medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) and high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) even though many Indian private defense companies have tied up with much-reputed International UAV original equipment manufacturer (OEM) but local indigenous private development is yet to take off due to rigid control of the defense Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) that in past have successfully stalled any moves to take away their projects that are underway.

DRDO and its associate laboratories in the last 20 years have been engaged in research and development of MALE and HALE Class UAVs but have failed to give the Indian military a refined product that meets its requirements, due to which India continues to import UAVs thus losing billions of dollars in foreign reserves. Ongoing MALE and HALE Class UAVs have failed to meet deadlines, over shot their budget and already are on multiple project extensions along with countless change of name of programs but DRDO has still failed to deliver a product that can enter production till now.

Many Indian private startup companies have shown interest in the development of their concepts but they claim lack of support from the DRDO and Government due to which many of the concepts that were showcased in defence exhibitions that had potentials to end up as a product that can enter production have been biting dust. some companies even claim moves to enter this space have been stalled and discouraged by powerful lobbies in the country that want, India being dependent on imported UAVs. Some companies who did interact directly with the officials of the Indian military claim lack of wiliness to engage them in development of UAV they seek from International vendors.

It’s high time DRDO concedes that it s not in the position to develop multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) programs let alone deliver on one or two UAV programs that it is working on presently. Potential Indian companies need to be identified and stressed needs to be on the development of local tech instead of the local assembly of imported UAVs. DRDO should be told to hand over most of the technology that already has been developed in this sphere under the Transfer of Technology (ToT) agreements and let it continue work on other technology where it is good at.

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