Saturday, May 23, 2020

Special Ops Forces Of The Indian Army Looking To Kit-Out With Tactical UAV Systems

An interesting development occurred last week. The Indian Army [IA] floated a Request For Information [RFI] [archive] towards the acquisition of 150 Nos. of micro Unmanned Aerial Systems [UAS], or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems [RPAS]. Leaving no doubt about its end-use, it stated that the buy was to "enhance the situational awareness of squad and troop involved in various special operations tasks". These portable, light-weight systems, capable of Day-Night Surveillance, performing Vertical Take-Off & Landing [VTOL], having a gross weight of less than 15 Kilograms [6 kg for the Flying Unit], are required to have a range of no less than 5 Kilometres, fulfilling minimum mission time of 45 minutes over Area of Interest.

Given that the Army wants it to be VTOL capable, we would likely be looking at a Trirotor, better, Quadrotor configuration in the downselected solution. It would permit operators to also launch them from a smaller vicinity, not requiring a run-up to impart an initial, launch velocity. This feature tallies with an inquiry it makes from potential bidders, indicating the range of possible deployment areas.
HHGCS - Remote Viewing - 01 - 01 - JPG
An interesting requisite of the RPAS should be the ability of it's Hand Held Ground Control System [HHGCS] to transmit real-time feed from the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle [UAV] to another location for remote viewing. It should involve bouncing the signal from a Communication Satellite, such as it's GSAT-7A. Thus, Field Commanders, in Operational Headquarters, could be clued-in on the unfolding event, as it were happening.
Waypoint Navigation input for the RPAS' mission is required to be multi-format, including compatibility with it's own classified, digital Defence Series Maps, that the Military Survey Directorate & Survey of India [SOI] jointly generate, using LCC projection on WGS84 datum. Flexibility to specify Reference Points in terms of it's Indian Military Grid Reference is also being sought.
Micro Remotely Piloted Aircraft System RPAS Indian Army - 01
Of specific interest to the Army is it's performance, when launched from elevation of 3,000 m & 5,000 m. A look-up informs that the Daulat Beg Oldi [DBO] region, close to it's border with China, is at an elevation of around 5,000 m. Elevation at the Siachen Glacier averages 5,500 m. Launch of any Micro UAV from it's jagged terrain would preclude the operator from running, to impart launch velocity. Similarly, VTOL-capable UAV would make its retrieval functional. Passes in the Pir Panjal ranges, averaging 3,000 m elevation, in the states of Jammu & Kashmir witness many encounters between Indian Army Ambush parties & pakistan-backed islamist terrorists, transgressing the LoC. Availability of such last-mile, tactical RPAS could advantage them with enhanced spatial awareness, beyond visual ability, of the operating terrain. The US Military, in it's Iraq & Afghanistan operations, makes effective utilization of such 'Pointers', tactical man-portable UAV streaming video back to the GCS of it's Forward Operating Troops.
Micro Drone Indian Army - 001
This buy plan of the Army is the perfect foil for Indian Private Sectors contenders to pitch their wares. The requirement stated, including its Sensor package for Day & Night Surveillance, are quite a low-hanging fruit. A wide number of Indian Cos. are engaged in the development and assembly of UAS, of different configuration & capacities - Tata Aerospace & Defence, Asteria Aerospace, AutoMicroUAS Aerotech, ZMotion Autonomous Systems, Raphe mPhibr, are 5 among the many MSME Companies with solutions to meet the requirement. A stand-out fact in the RFI is that the RFP will be floated in May 2021 - a year from now. This would give prospective contenders with a fair amount of time to tweak their existing offering to match stated IA requirements. In a major move towards reform, a wide range of policies and acquisitions norms have recently been revised to promote indigenous growth in the Defence sector.
This acquisition programme is an ideal case to walk the talk.