DRDO's Multi-Terrain Wireless Surveillance & Combat Robot

From unmanned tiny robotic vehicles for a surgical strike across the border to an autonomous under-water transporter to fix limpet mines onto enemy ships, future war technologies seek to take the soldiers out of high-risk operations.

These two are among the 11 GenNext war-fighting ideas that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) would explore in the next 3-5 years.

“This is the era of robotic warfare. We may or may not adopt it today but we are definitely going to face it tomorrow. It will be too bad if our soldiers have to lose their lives, fighting enemy robots,” said Venkatesh Kumar Dwivedi, a young scientist at Defence Avionics Research Establishment in Bangalore.

Venkatesh proposed the creation of R-net — a network of unmanned robotic vehicles for combat operations. Fitted with sensors, high-speed network, decision-making algorithm and ammunition, these robotic vehicles can aid the soldiers in counter-insurgency operations in a city, in the surgical strike and in border patrolling.

The objective is to reduce the risk for our soldiers, says a note prepared by Dwivedi, who was awarded by the DRDO on Monday for the concept.

“We will now prepare a detailed project report and hope to prove the idea in less than three years time,” he said.

The Bengaluru researcher's idea is one of the 11 NavRachna awards, instituted by the DRDO on its 60th anniversary earlier this year. The military R&D agency threw up an online challenge for its scientists to come up with innovative ideas. Out of 82 ideas submitted, 11 were short-listed for institutional support after two rounds of reviews.

“We will support these ideas from our budget over the next 3-5 years. All of them are promising and the funding would entirely be internal so that no question of intellectual property sharing arise,” S Christopher, chairman DRDO told DH.

Fixing limpet mines onto an enemy warship by an automated underwater vehicle is one such idea proposed by a scientist at Naval Science and Technology Laboratory Vishakapatnam. Another idea from Naval Materials Research Laboratory Ambernath is to coat the torpedoes with a smart paint that reduces the weapon's drag.

“The DRDO needs newer out-of-the-box thinking,” pointed out Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman after handing over awards to several DRDO scientists.