Apart from DRDO's GHATAK UAV, the RUSTOM-II drone can be modified for combat service

Centre firming up policy road map, says NITI Aayog’s VK Saraswat

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, will play a major role in the contact less wars of the future, NITI Aayog member VK Saraswat said, adding that the Centre is in the process of firming up a road map to develop capabilities in the area.

Saraswat, who was the former head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said miniaturisation will be the key to all future vehicles. “We want smart systems and it can only be possible by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in a big way. There is need to pursue research in hypersonics, propulsion, stealth and other technologies,” he said, addressing a technical meet of the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI). DRDO’s labs have developed indigenously a UAV called Rustom (Warrior). In addition, the Defence Ministry is in talks with Israel for procuring some advanced versions and more of the Heron, which it already has in its arsenal.

Seconding Saraswat’s views G Satheesh Reddy, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and D-G, Missiles and Strategic Systems, said: “The miniaturisation of sensors and technologies will tremendously transform futuristic aeronautical systems. The systems will be smart, collaborative and lead to a large amount of sensor data, paving way for AI & machine learning of complex systems.”

Global industries are looking to India for collaboration in manufacturing and domestic industries need to rethink their business models and adapt accordingly, said Reddy, who is the Chairman of the AeSI.

Vice-Chief of the Naval Staff, Ajit Kumar, said naval aviation was poised for expansion in numbers and technology. At present, the Navy operates a wide variety of aircraft that includes deck-based fighters and the latest P8i Long Range Maritime Aircraft.

The domestic industry has tremendous scope in providing home-grown solutions, and expertise in training personnel to maintain and operate assets, he said.