drone pilot industryIn Bengaluru, hi-tech Yodhas give a glimpse of combat future

October 24, 2021by helo-10

At the Yelahanka Air Force base in Bengaluru on Sunday, a swarm drone warfare system was the cynosure of all eyes. ‘Baaz’, ‘Yodhas’ and ‘Ghataks’ — lethal and intelligent machines with catchy names — dropped bombs and conducted ‘kamikaze’ strikes, giving a peek into the future of combat.

The Heterogeneous Autonomous Swarm Unmanned Aircraft System deployed three types of drones: six multicopter drones hauling one kg bombs, three mini-drones packed with munitions and a single 25-kg observation machine called ‘Baaz’, which can take off vertically and fly at a speed of 95 kmph.

Demonstrated on the last day of the Swarnim Vijay Varsh conclave, the system was developed by Dhaksha Unmanned Systems Private Ltd. Wing Commander K R Srikanth (retired), a member of the company, said the system uses a complex mix of indigenised technologies.

Dhaksha’s R&D has been done in collaboration with Anna University in Tamil Nadu. 

“The Baaz orbited the ‘battlespace’ using Lidar and infrared technology to identify targets. Once the target was known, the coordinates were passed onto six multicopter drones called “Yodhas,” each weighing about 20 kgs,” he said. The Yodha machines, armed with AI, independently attacked targets during the demonstration in Yelahanka even as ‘Baaz’ continued to loiter over the target to provide live feed to the nodal centre.

When the Yodhas fell short in attacks on mobile targets, tiny 1.8 kg ‘killer’ drones called ‘Ghataks’ were sent to carry out kamikaze kinetic attacks. 

The machines, which have a range of 100 km, operated at an altitude of up to 300 metres.

Competition winner

The success of its system meant that Dhaksha was declared on Sunday as one the four Indian drone startups to win the Indian Air Force’s “Mehar Baba” swarm drone competition.

Speaking about the competition, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari said it gives IAF access to cutting-edge technology in a “rapidly developing area”. 

“The swarm drone competition was conceived as an initiative by the Indian Air Force to give a platform to academia and the industry to jump-start the fledgling Indian drone ecosystem,” Chaudhari said. “This is a rapidly developing area, which has tremendous operational potential for the military and civil sectors. This is the only way to generate new technology.”

He added that the annual competition could serve as a launchpad for new, imaginative uses of drone technology.

Sameer Joshi, retired IAF pilot and founder of Bengaluru-based startup NewSpace Research and Technologies Private Ltd, said India’s new drone policy and the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme had been a boon for the nascent drone industry.

“The fact that anybody can now fly a drone from a green zone is unthinkable even in bigger countries such as the US. The policy allows many firms to put something together and test it, which had previously been a challenge,” said Joshi, whose startup was one of the winners for its “swarm drone” infrastructure.

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