HAL’s Unmanned Future: Slew Of DefExpo Partnerships Cements New Path
By Shiv Aroor, Feb 05 2020, 7: 02 pm
India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has signaled its most aggressive business push towards unmanned air systems with a quick slew of partnerships forged on Day 1 of the Def Expo 2020 show in Lucknow, India. In a matter of hours today, HAL announced strategic arrangements with private sector firm Dynamatic Technologies to build and market Israeli conglomerate IAI’s drone family, including presumably advanced/armed versions of the in-service Heron UAS, a second partnership with Indian private firm New Space Research and Technologies to jointly develop and manufacture products and systems in the area of unmanned systems, swarm technology, and a third partnership with Israel’s Elbit Systems ISTAR Division to look at jointly developing an unmanned helicopter system for the Indian Navy.
To be sure, the memoranda of agreement signed by HAL today will be meaningful once they evolve into actual incorporated arrangements, but they bring into focus an imperative business direction that HAL has wisened up to. With orders to HAL for the manufacture of fighter aircraft already drying up, the company has evidently decided to put corporate heft into creating a full-fledged business division (it exists, but hasn’t done much so far) focused on quickly developing unmanned air systems to meet requirements across the capability spectrum from India’s armed, paramilitary and police services. For HAL, the move doesn’t just make business sense — it could also be a matter of survival in the decades ahead. For years the sole military airframer in the country, HAL has begun to feel the heat, with the Indian MoD deciding to create combat aircraft manufacturing capacity in the private sector for the first time.
HAL’s tie-up today with Elbit, for instance, is particularly significant (it actually signed two, the second for head-up displays). The Indian Navy’s need for a deck-based unmanned rotorcraft system like the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout has remained unfulfilled for years. In 2017, after a years-long joint effort with IAI to create the NRUAV, an unmanned rotorcraft based on the HAL-built Alouette III/Chetak helicopter platform, failed to produce a usable product, HAL signaled it would be rebooting the effort with a new partner. It’s MoU with Elbit today is a culmination of that effort. It is unclear if the proposed project will involve the Chetak or a different helicopter platform like, perhaps HAL’s own Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).
In a statement announcing the partnership with Elbit, HAL said, “The proposed VTOL UAVs have a tremendous potential in carrying out maritime military missions with higher efficiency compared to a manned helicopter. Deploying a VTOL UAV will bring down the huge costs associated with inducting operating and maintaining manned helicopters on the deck. It will also benefit the Indian Armed Forces in deploying a VTOL UAV for a routine surveillance mission or operating in unsafe areas both during day and night, which otherwise would have to be carried out by manned helicopters. It may also open up new business avenues for HAL culminating in both domestic and export orders.”
HAL’s tie-up with Dynamatic Technologies to look at building Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) family of drones in India is equally significant. Apart from the depot-level maintenance that HAL provides to the Heron and Searcher Mk.II drones operated by the Indian armed forces, HAL has dabbled with license manufacturing tactical mini-UAS systems like the Elbit Skylark in India with limited or no real success. Today’s agreement with Dynamatic Tech, already a well-regarded global single source supplier to top military airframers across the world, signals significantly expanded scope and ambition — way beyond the small drones HAL was looking to hawk earlier.
HAL’s interest in building and marketing IAI’s larger drones in India will be the second such partnership in the country. Indian private conglomerate, the Adani Group, has been building up its own partnership with Israel’s Elbit Systems to build and market the Hermes family of high performance drones for the Indian armed forces and export. In 2018, Adani announced the inauguration of India’s first private UAV manufacturing facility in Hyderabad, Telangana where it hopes to build the Hermes 900, and has already begun making aero-structures for both the Hermes 900 & 450.
HAL’s first prominent steps towards an unmanned future were visible at the Aero India show in Bengaluru last year. Not only did the company unveil a 200-kg unmanned helicopter concept, the RUAV (the title picture to this post), but also a far more ambitious and meaningful endeavour, the Unmanned Wingman UCAV, in partnership with a private sector start-up firm. It’s new partnership today with New Space Research and Technologies signals a spread into this area in a substantive way.
In 2018, HAL entered into a three-way agreement with Boeing Defense and the Mahindra Group to support the F/A-18 Super Hornet pitch in an upcoming Indian constest to build 114 jets in India. Alongside ongoing manufacture of the LCA Tejas and a likely additional handful of Su-30 MKI assemblies, HAL’s manned aircraft future is more than just uncertain. With India’s requirement for unmanned air systems only likely to expand and become more well-defined, HAL’s pronounced steps in the domain provide perhaps the most significant proactive step by a legacy firm.
The Indian private sector has already taken several steps in the UAS space, and the Def Expo show has already seen significant updates. After the Tata Group and Mahindra Group, the Kalyani Group yesterday announced that it would be investing in the UAS field ‘aimed towards self-reliance in the field‘.
If I am to break down the infomation from the photos posted by the HAL test pilot, here's what I got :
The "CATS" here stands for Combat Air-Teaming Systems. Apparently its a ongoing program within HAL along with NewSpace which seeks to build/modify aircrafts and munitions in a way that they work as a team. Basically what the USAF would call sensor fusion along with the ability of sharing targeting/surveillance data in real time.
The "ALFA" is the name of a drone that NewSpace Research and Technologies is working with HAL named Air-Launched Flexible Asset-Swarm(ALFA-S) View attachment 8050
The "NGCCM" means Next Generation Close Combat Missile. The missile look like a MBDA ASRAAM, which makes sense given the air force wants it as the standard CCM for the entire fleet. View attachment 8052
The ALFA-S drones are carried in flight by an aerodynamic cowl to reduce drag in forward flight. This cowl is very similar to the one HAL Tejas uses albeit for much smaller payloads. View attachment 8051
Also there seems to be a recce pod under the belly of the HAWK-i(marked by a red arrow). that is probably a RAFAEL Recce Lite as carried by the Tejas in the pic above.
Over all this seems very much an achievable task, everything we need is available. Only the ALFA-S drones need to be built. Flying the drones will be the easy part, prototypes were displayed during AeroIndia 2019. The AI software needed for the drones is the difficult part. We've traditionally always been strong in software domain, but its HAL so you never know. View attachment 8053
Oh and here is him and his buddies flying prototypes in formation :
Here you have Mudi kaka and Ninda turtle standing along with the latest version of the NewSpace ALFA-S drone. There is a lot going on with this project behind the scenes. HAL and Newspace today signed a Non disclosure agreement regarding the development of drones.
Indian Air Force will get this special robot, it can easily defuse a 1000 kg bomb
By Shivani Gite, Feb 07 2020 12:08 PM
Lucknow: India is getting new forces from the ongoing Defense Expo in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. One of these is a robot that is available to the Indian Air Force, which can easily defuse a 1000 kg bomb.
According to the sources, the decision to include this robot in the Indian Airforce has not been fully decided yet. But many trials have been done on behalf of the Airforce. It has been produced by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), which has been exhibited at the ongoing Defense Expo in Lucknow.
Speaking on this robot, DRDO scientist Alok Mukherjee has said that, 'We have conducted many trials of this robot with the Indian Air Force, a practice of bomb defusing many locations has also been done'. These robots will be controlled through a mobile center, that is, human capability will not be required for bomb diffuses.
Robots on wheels, robots on tracks and robots resembling a ball, not unlike a robotic character seen in the new Star Wars films may soon be rolling out to join Indian Army troops.
For the last three years, Bengaluru-based DRDO lab, the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robots (CAIR), has been perfecting four different models of mobile robots designed to infiltrate military and combat zones, map the area and help friendly troops punch their way in.
Two of these models, which were on display at the 107th Indian Science Congress, showed the maturity of the technology. The ‘Sentry’ is a four-wheeled robot which looks almost spider-like with a large central eye and a battery of sensors in front. The unit is designed to probe flat or semi-flat landscapes for the military.
The second machine, called ‘Mini-UGV’ is a squat, tracked robot resembling a large, toy tank designed to infiltrate buildings occupied by terrorists and survey the various floors.
“Both of these models are completely autonomous, which means that if you give them a destination, they will create their own way-points and chart a course to the destination using their inbuilt Artificial Intelligence module,” explained the project director.
He clarified that the ‘Sentry’ is also capable of patrolling a medium-sized perimeter constantly for as long as the battery held a charge. The maximum battery endurance of both machines is about four hours, scientists clarified.
Both systems use a battery of sensors, including GPS, 360-degree cameras and an infrared sensor.
The other model of robot, which was not displayed, is said to be a robot ball (called “ballbot”) which could be dropped by the mini-UGV across the various floors of a terrorist-held building, which would then be controlled by an operator from a remote location.
The operational doctrine has already been formulated for all the robots. “Eight of these various robots are designed to operate as a team. Each robot has something that we call “multi-agent collaboration.’ This means they can talk to each other,” explained another scientist involved in the project.
“The last class of machine is a larger reconnaissance ground vehicle which again has autonomous capabilities,” the senior scientist said. The DRDO said both machines have completed testing and are ready to be deployed. DRDO officials, however, would not comment about whether the Indian military had expressed interest in the inventions.
The deployment plan and planned capabilities are great. Hear it from the guy :
The last picture makes me imagine things. Imagine this launcher on a small patrol boat, with proper training and situational awareness, the Navy can wreak havoc with this. Good stuff from the start up, hope they succeed.
Z motion Bangalore Trinetra precision guided hand launched tactical attack UAV
This start up company has won the IAF contest last year to develop whole family of autonomous kamakazi suicide drones both in individual and swarm modes for anti personal , anti armour , SEAD / DEAD missions , EW applications both hand launched by SFs and via land / air platforms
Desi robot Ballbot & drone EyeRov inspire visitors at DefExpo
By Anantha Krishnan M, February 10, 2020 07:05 PM IST
Lucknow: It was curtains for the five-day DefExpo2020 on Sunday with thousands of visitors thronging the venue here at Vrindavan Yojana to get a glimpse of the war-fighting and intelligence-enabling machines that were on display.
At this biennial show, primarily for land-based military equipment, there were several home-grown robotic solutions on display. Onmanorama picks up to two such systems for you – Bollbot and EyeROV Tuna.
Ballbot is a product from Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR), a Bengaluru-based DRDO lab, while EveRov Tuna is from a private firm Irov Technologies based out of Kochi.
Scientists from CAIR told Onmanorama during DefExpo2020 that the Ballbot is an ideal solution for surveillance, reconnaissance and patrolling. It has a modular chassis, sensor and computer which can be reconfigured as per the specific requirements.
The Ballbot is targeted for CI/CT (counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism) operations and for paramilitary forces.
“It will provide remote eyes on the ground and reduce human casualty,” says a scientist.
Developed in 18 months, the Ballbot is yet to undertake any trials by the users. But the engineered version for field conditions has been demonstrated to potential users.
The design, development and fabrication activities have been done completely indigenous, while actuators, sensors and computing platforms have been imported.
“The combination of Ballbot and MUGV (Mini Unmanned Ground Vehicle) in a marsupial configuration is unique. However, individually, similar scale of systems are available elsewhere,” the scientists said.
Each MUGV can carry two Ballbots and the operator can deploy them remotely and subsequently all the three can be controlled independently.
On the challenges faced by the young team (average age 32 years) during the development of the Ballbot, the scientist cited ruggedization for military standards in miniature platforms and the availability of miniature sensors and actuators as the major ones.
A new version of Ballbot is in the making and it boasts of features like multi-robot collaboration and integration with flying platforms.
Claimed as India’s first commercial inspection class MROV (micro remotely operated vehicle), EyeROV Tuna is capable of undertaking probe missions of underwater structures.
“It is capable of going to depths of 100-m and is very easy to operate with the help of a laptop or a joystick. It is very cost-effective as well,” says Nirmal Thomas, a young product engineer manning the stall at DefExpo2020.
EyeRov Tuna is fitted with a camera that does the duties of sending live video feed of the underwater environment. It can be used for inspections of railway bridge piers, ship hull, dams and port structures to name a few.
At DefExpo2020, many defence officials seem to have shown their keen interest in the EyeRov Tuna, a product that’s already in operation.
This MROV can be used for salvage operations as well.
“Our MROV is cost-effective, easy to operate and maintain. This forms the fundamental requirement for any user and EyeRov Tuna satisfies them all,” adds Nirmal.
With AI (artificial intelligence) making deep inroads in aerospace and defence sector, the DefExpo2020 saw many companies exhibiting their products for military and commercial use.
The dedicated India Pavilion at the show saw many futuristic technologies such as AI, Augmented Virtual Reality (AVR), Autonomous Systems, Internet of Military Things (IoMT) and Industry 4.0 to name a few.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)
So trails for IDEX challenge has started. Pretty bad start though :
Rajasthan: Four drones of a private firm crash into Pokhran field
TNN | Updated: Feb 14, 2020, 07:24 IST
JAISALMER: Four drones of a private company fell into a field after crash in Pokhran on Thursday. Indian Air Force (IAF) is conducting trials of drones belonging to private companies under Make in India initiative. One of the drones was found during the search operation by police and IAF officials. Three drones are yet to be found. Police and IAF officials have appealed villagers to inform immediately if they come across with the missing drones.
SP Kiran Kung said that trial of drones is going on at Pokhran firing range in which four drones went missing which was informed by the IAF officials to the police control room. A search operation was launched by police and IAF. A drone was found at 95RD under Nachna police station, while location of two other drones is under Mohangarh police station area where the search operation is going on, he said.
According to officials, during the calamities, the IAF wants to provide immediate help through drones. To use better quality drones, the IAF is organizing a competition at the Pokhran firing range.
Sources said that jury has been formed with experts from air force, Stanford University, South Asia University.
The drone can carry one to two kg items to the pin point affected person and can travel up to 5km in 1.5 hours. Drones are being developed in which antenna has been designed in such a manner that it can track victims along with ACB be used in surveillance, agriculture etc.
Future Wars: India’s first-ever unmanned war machine is here; To be tested soon
By: Huma Siddiqui | Published: March 13, 2020 4:02:00 PM
“SOORAN is field-tested and ready to go for manufacturing. We are still upgrading its autonomous capabilities and working on documentation” Dennis Ebenezar, MD of a start-up Defence Master India Pvt Ltd, tells Financial Express Online.
‘SOORAN’ country’s first unmanned armoured vehicle, capable to fight on battlefields and be operated from a distance, has caught the interest of the Indian Army.
In an effort to ensure minimum casualties during the war, the Indian Army is getting ready to test out an unmanned vehicle next month. ‘SOORAN’ country’s first unmanned armoured vehicle, capable to fight on battlefields and be operated from a distance, has caught the interest of the Indian Army. “SOORAN is field-tested and ready to go for manufacturing. We are still upgrading its autonomous capabilities and working on documentation works,” Dennis Ebenezar, MD of a start-up Defence Master India Pvt Ltd, tells Financial Express Online. The tests will be done in Chennai next month for the Indian Army.
The tests next month which will be carried out next month is of significance, as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat in his interaction with the young Instrumentation & Control engineer had expressed interest in Project SOORAN during the DefExpo 2020.
The son of a retired schoolmaster, Ebenezar explains “The unmanned vehicle weighing around 500 kgs can be operated either through a control room or through a mobile phone. It has a mounted gun turret, and this too can be controlled remotely.”
More about SOORAN :
It is multi-terrain vehicle.
Equipped with artificial intelligence and has a petrol engine.
Can be operated in three modes including teleoperated with remote, teleoperated from a mobile control station and through an autonomous mode.
This is possible through artificial intelligence ‘NIVATA’.
It also has onboard long-range cameras, high-end processors, controllers, sensors, power backup, etc.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as well as other stakeholders have shown interest in this futuristic war machine.
For the future Digitised future warfare, he is working on Artificial Super Intelligence NIVATA, which is under development and testing. “NIVATA specially designed to take on terrorists hiding inside buildings,” he says.
“We have three ground and air combat systems are capable to conduct coordinated combat operation using Artificial Intelligence (AI) NIVATA, specially designed to take on terrorists hiding inside buildings. And besides ‘SOORAN’ which is Tele-operated Unmanned Combat Vehicle with Autonomous mode, there is ‘Sky Emperor’: Drone with a Gun. Remote controlled and Autonomous and ‘Scout Flies’ – a cluster of micro-drones used to destroy Specific targets using a small amount of chemical explosives loaded in it.”
“Scout Flies can also be used for mass ground search operations with facial and object recognition and is fully autonomous with pre-designed tasks,” says the man who has self-financed these projects.
“A demonstration is being scheduled for mid-April, where all the three combat systems will conduct a coordinated combat operation with help of NIVATA, with certain pre-designed assignments,” he adds.