Indian Army is raising a drone army that can hit targets 50-km inside enemy territory, can be used for surveillance of enemy's activities and their movements, and is capable of delivering essential supplies in forward areas.
The fleet called Swarm Drones was showcased by the Indian Army for the first time during the Army Day parade 2021 held in Delhi cantonment on Friday.
During the display, the indigenous swarm drones showed offensive capabilities by executing an array of Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled simulated offensive missions including attacks on targets, including enemy tanks, terror hideouts, radar positions, fuel depots among others, and close support tasks.
While the India Army's fleet displayed at the parade was of 75 drones, including mother UAVs that release smaller systems, the military is aiming at increasing the number to 1,000 such systems in the coming months.
At the parade, the quadcopter drones of multiple payload capacities delivered medical aids and para-dropping essential supplies, which in itself is a manifestation of its capabilities to support troops deployed in harsh and forward positions.
The Army said that the fleet was capable of delivering crucial supplies weighing 600 kgs.
In a statement, the Indian Army said that the drone swarming capability is a "recognition of the Army's steady embrace of emerging and disruptive technologies to transform itself from a manpower-intensive to a technology-enabled force to meet future security challenges".
Developed by Bengaluru-based start-up
The drone systems have been developed in collaboration with Bengaluru-based startup NewSpace Research and Technologies.
"We started in August with five systems, which was scaled up to 20 in October, 30 in December and now 75," The Print quoted a source in defence establishment as saying.
Army shows that the swarm drone development project "symbolises the beginning of the Indian Army's tryst with autonomy in weapon platforms and showcases the Army's commitment towards merging the cutting edge of digital technologies with its human resource".
Army invests heavily in futuristic technology
Realizing the rapidly changing security challenges and increasing role of technologies in combat and warfare, the Indian Army is investing heavily in advanced technologies including AI-enabled drone capabilities.
The Army is focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Autonomous Weapon Systems, Quantum Technologies, Robotics, Cloud Computing, and Algorithm Warfare in order to achieve a convergence between the Army's warfighting philosophies and military attributes of these technologies, it said.
"The Indian Army has undertaken a wide array of technology initiatives in coordination with Dreamers, Startups, MSMEs, Private Sector, Academia, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs)," the Army said.
This comes in wake of repeated calls by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat for adopting cutting-edge technologies in the armed forces to support troops on the ground.
Last year, he told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence that ways were being explored for incorporating technology in such a manner so as to supplement boots on the ground.
Don't test our patience: Gen Naravane
In a stern warning to China, India Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Friday said that Bejing should refrain from its efforts to unilaterally change the status quote in the areas bordering Ladakh and not to test India's patience.
"You all know about ongoing tension with China on our northern border. Regarding conspiracy to unilaterally change status quo on borders, a befitting reply was given... We are committed to finding the resolution of our disputes through discussions and political efforts but no one should commit the mistake of testing our patience," General Naravane said in his address on the Army Day.
He assured the countrymen that the sacrifices made by bravehearts of the Galwan valley would not go in vain.