The Indian Drone Market: Major Opportunities await Global and Indian Players Today

Drone Advisory Board

Applications of drones are increasing phenomenally among India’s armed forces, central and state police forces as well among PSUs which now realize the immense utility and efficacy of drones. Drones of different dimensions, capabilities and caliber are already in use by the armed forces of India. While the Indian Army and Air Force operate a large number of Israeli made Heron and Searcher Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) primarily for surveillance purpose, it also has in its possession a small but potent arsenal of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) such has Harop and Harpy. However, amidst worsening border situation, relentless transgressions by Pakistan based terror groups and massive military build –up in the Tibetan region by China, the Government of India has firmed up plans to buy a large array of combat drones like the Predator Drones and the HAROP TP.

Segmentation of the Drone Market

In terms of market segmentations, the drone or the UAV market can be divided into four categories. They are:

1. Micro UAVs- These weigh up to 1 Kg and have endurance time of 1 hour
2. Small UAVs – These weigh up to 15 Kg and have endurance of a minimum of 2 hours
3. Medium UAVs – These have ability to fly at around 4000 ft of altitude for 5-10 hours and with payloads varying from 5- 100 Kg
4. Large UAVs – These have unique ability to fly at around 50,000 ft for several hours (sometimes more than 24 hours) and with ability to carry precision guided munitions.

Where the Demand Lies

As the large and medium UAVs have more applications with the Indian Armed Forces and possibly with some Central Police Forces, the micro and small UAVs may have more demand from the state police forces as also with disaster management authorities and PSUs.

As per media reports India had given sanctions for the purchase of 10 Heron TP drones for Indian Air Force from Israel, in September 2015, which can be armed with precision weapon systems. In the same league, India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) club now paves the way for its acquisition of Predator C Challenger combat drones from General Atomics of US. According to Reuters, India is planning to acquire 40 Predator C combat drones.

Likewise, the demand for drones is also increasing among the Central Police Forces for operations in the Maoist zones as well as in the border areas. The CRPF may also be planning to buy a new generation of drones in 2016-17. DRDO’s quadcopter named NETRA has been in use with CRPF and many state level police forces too. Media reports state that BSF has also deployed drones for surveillance purpose.

The Rising Demand among State Police Forces and other Government Agencies

The demand for quadcopters has been high among the state police forces that are deploying drones during festive seasons as well as during incidents of mob violence. Recently Karnataka Police became the first police force of India to have its own dedicated drone fleet. It acquired 12 Phantom 4 series of drones from Korea. Equipped with 18.2 megapixels camera, the drones have air endurance of 30 minutes and can track movement and objects up till 5 kilometers away.

Many other states have also drawn up plans to acquire drones while many use drones for special occasions. For example, the Delhi Police too have firmed up plans to buy two Netra Drones from DRDO. In 2015, Andhra Pradesh Police had acquired drones fitted with HD cameras to keep a check on the smuggling of red sanders. It has also firmed up plans to acquire 10 drones, sanctions for which have already been given by the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister. The Gujarat Police has also started using drones. Moreover, apart from the law enforcement agencies, the National Disaster Response Force or the NDRF has been using drones during natural disasters to locate victims and trapped people.

Additionally, application of drones has now found favors with Indian Railways and PSUs like Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) as well. The Indian Railways, with one of the largest networks of rail tracks and stations across the country and with thousands of Crores of on-going rail projects, have started using drones for inspection of progress of mega projects like that of Dedicated Freight Corridor. GAIL has started using drones for surveillance of its vast network of gas transmission pipelines.

The Potential of the Market

Even though there are still major restrictions on the civilian use drones and justifiably so because of possibility of misuse, the Indian market for drones is now a promising one and there is immense opportunity for Indian companies. Given India’s vast repository of electronic and software companies, it is not difficult for it to become a major hub for manufacturing of drones. While India may still rely on global companies for purchase of large UAVs and Combat drones, there is considerable potential for innovation in the market for small and mini UAVs where Indian companies can play a critical role in both making of drones as well as in data analytics of the data collected by drones. There is also a strong potential of Indian companies availing the opportunities of the ‘Make in India’ program and setting up joint ventures in India for making large drones.

Some of the most common applications of drones are enumerated below:

1. Geographical Mapping
2. Agricultural Survey
3. Disaster Management
4. Search & Rescue
5. Flood Management
6. Border Patrol
7. Anti-Terror Operations
8. Maritime Surveillance
9. Critical Infrastructure Monitoring
10. Intelligence Gathering

Some of the key players in the Drone Market are as follows:

Global Players
1. General Atomics
2. Boeing Company
3. Lockheed Martin
4. Northrop Grumman
5. AeroVironment
6. Prox Dynamics AS
7. Israeli Aerospace Industries

(Source- International Business Times )

Indian Players
1. Tata Advanced Systems
2. Om UAV Systems
4. Aurora Integrated Systems
5. Edall Systems
6. Dynamatic Technologies
7. Ashok Leyland
8. Taneja Aerospace and Aviation
9. Avaana Software and Services
10. Basant Aerospace
11. SasMos HET Tech

(Source- Hindu Businessline and The Economic Times)