The ministry of defence (MoD) has had little success in buying weaponry through conventional processes, laid down in its defence procurement procedures and manuals. Now, it is thinking way out of the box. In a bid to sample the market in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the Centre is organising Aero India 2019, which is scheduled to be held in Bengaluru from February 21 to 24. The event will feature a unique and unprecedented contest: the “Drone Olympics”, which will be held on the opening day.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday inaugurated the Drone Olympics website, which stated: “The Government of India is organising a ‘Drone Olympics’ under which various drone competitions shall be held and winners will be honoured with medals and cash prizes. Come forward and participate in the competition.” From battlefield surveillance, photography, mapping terrain and delivering products to remotely fired missile strikes on high-value targets, drones are today one of the most sought-after gadgets in the field of defence.
India’s military is buying and developing a range of drones. On the shopping list are 22 sophisticated, high-altitude, long endurance (HALE) Sea Guardian drones and smaller, manportable, shoulder-launched drones that foot soldiers can launch to observe the enemy across a hill or around a corner. Meanwhile, the DRDO is building an indigenous, medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) drone called the Rustom II.
However, that still leaves out a range of small, high-tech manufacturers, which build small drones capable of performing a range of military activities that could enhance battlefield performance. The Drone Olympics will put the spotlight on them, while also allowing the MoD to evaluate their products.
"It will not only encourage the UAV manufacturing in the country but also provide an opportunity to the armed forces to assess the capabilities that exist in the world," said the MoD, while inaugurating the Drone Olympics website on Friday.
The "Drone Olympics" are open to both Indian and international manufacturers. The competition, which will feature two classes of drones - under-four kg and four-seven kg - will be held in three domains.
The first is a "Surveillance Challenge" in which UAVs will be graded on their ability to monitor and recce a specified area. Second, the "Supply Drop Challenge" will require drones to lift a two-kg load to a point 2 km away, with the winner being the lightest drone that can successively complete the task. Finally, a "Formation Flying Challenge" will assess groups of drones' ability to fly in formation.
"The winners will be honoured with medals and a cash prize of Rs 3.8 million to top three winners of each competition. Last date of registration to participate in this event is January 26, 2019," announced the MoD on Friday.