New Delhi: Amidst a military conflict in the Ladakh border with China, Indian Army has signed a $20-million contract with a local drone maker for the supply of a tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for high altitude deployment.
The nearly Rs 140-crore contract, signed with Indian startup ideaForge set up by the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay alumnus, is for an undisclosed quantities of the SWITCH UAV, which will be delivered over a period of a year. The company has previously supplied tactical drones for the Indian armed forces.
“ideaForge has been awarded this contract after it emerged as the only vendor that qualified the operational requirements in an evaluation done in real-world conditions, for a fast-track procurement,” a company statement on its website said.
“The contract marks a strategic shift in the Indian defence procurement process, as the Indian Army goes on an aggressive modernisation drive. It has also cemented ideaForge’s position as India’s largest manufacturer of drones for defence, homeland security and industrial applications,” it said.
This also means the Indian armed forces are confident of the Indian drone manufacturers’ capabilities to meet the requirements within the country, thus enabling the Ministry of Defence to stop looking at foreign sources for unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities.
Though the number to be supplied to the Indian Army has not been stated upfront, it is estimated to be over 100 drones.
The company said SWITCH UAV is an indigenous system built to cater for the most demanding surveillance operations of the Indian forces. The SWITCH drones, each weighing 6.5 kg, is capable of 2-hour endurance and surveillance up to 15 km from altitudes of 4,000 meters.
This Fixed Wing VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) UAV can be deployed at high altitude and harsh environments for day and night surveillance in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. It is man-portable and has the highest time on target compared to any other UAV in its class.
“SWITCH UAV is the culmination of insights and knowledge we have gained over years of experience in helping the Indian forces operationalise UAVs in their ranks,” ideaForge Chief Executive Officer Ankit Mehta said.
The trials saw about a dozen national and global players — including Indian offers from Tata Group, Dynamatic Technologies Limited, VTOL Aviation India Private Limited and Israel‘s Elbit Systems — compete to meet the operational requirements. SWITCH UAV is the only product that cleared the Indian Army’s stringent product trials and surpassed expectations, the company said.
“It is a testimony of the fact that our systems are built like a bird and tested like a tank. Our systems are fully ready to serve nations that seek to protect their territorial sovereignty,” Mehta said.
Ganapathy Subramaniam, partner at the WRVI Venture Capital serving as the executive chairman at ideaForge, said a combination of world-class technology and a deep understanding of customer requirements has resulted in ideaForge bagging this contract against global competition.
“With the backing of reputed institutional investors such as WRVI, Infosys and Qualcomm, ideaForge is all set to grow rapidly. We plan to work with like-minded investors and partners to achieve our vision of premier drone company serving enterprise, security and surveillance market globally,” Ganapathy Subramaniam said.