Fly & forget: India aims at smarter UAVs

The recent drone attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia has put the spotlight on this new form of warfare and now it appears that India too is working on unmanned drones going on autonomous missions inside enemy territory.

Speakers at a session on ‘Future of combat- innocuous drones and lethal standoff weapons’ revealed the country’s progress on using drones for combat during a three- day conference by the Synergia Foundation in the city on Saturday.

The audience learnt that the country has the capability of sending its Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters accompanied by unmanned wingman flying in formation to destroy enemy targets.

Speaking of the solar powered high altitude pseudo satellite (HAPS) UAV, developed by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), squadron leader, Sameer Joshi, CEO, New Space Research, said, “HAPS fly at 20 plus kilometers in the stratosphere. They are a game changer. They could be used in Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) operations as well.”

The unmanned wingman developed by HAL with medium and small scale industries (MSME) playing their part, is connected to a fighter aircraft and is assigned specific tasks by the pilots through the data link.

“We have demonstrated this to the Indian Air Force (IAF) at Pokhran. An unmanned wingman flies in a formation and is controlled by a fighter aircraft. It has capabilities similar to a fighter aircraft but is smaller. It flies upto the border and a fighter stays behind by about 50 to 100 kms on whatever mission he is on,” said group captain H.V. Thakur, experimental test pilot at the HAL, explaining that the drone has the advantage of flying deep inside enemy territory without the risk of losing a pilot.

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