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Updated January 16th, 2024 at 06:49 IST

India Shuts DRDO's Biggest Drone Project Tapas as Army Deploys Adani's Drishti-10 Near Pakistan

Indian Army to deploy Adani's 'Drishti-10' drone along Pakistan border as DRDO shuts down Tapas project.

Digital Desk
Adani's 'Drishti-10' drone to join Indian Army border surveillance efforts as DRDO shunts Tapas
Adani's 'Drishti-10' drone to join Indian Army border surveillance efforts as DRDO shunts Tapas | Image:PTI / Elbit Systems
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Tapas vs Drishti-10: As the Indian Army prepares to deploy Adani Defence's repackaged Hermes 900 drone, known as 'Drishti-10', along the Pakistan border in Punjab, there is a significant setback to India's actual indigenous capabilities. According to media reports, the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has officially shut down, more appropriately sidelined, its ambitious Tapas project.

The Tapas project aimed to develop an advanced medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone for strategic reconnaissance and surveillance. However, as reports indicate, it ‘failed’ to meet operational military requirements.

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Tapas and its operational Shortcomings

Sanctioned in February 2011 with an initial cost of Rs 1,650 crore, the Tapas project faced initial challenges leading to delays and cost overruns. The deadline for completion was initially set for August 2016. However, issues such as the increase in the UAVs weight to 2,850kg, imported engine problems, and payload issues resulted in cost revisions to Rs 1,786 crore. Despite around 200 flights and efforts to rectify shortcomings, the Tapas drone could not meet the essential Preliminary Services Qualitative Requirements (PSQRs) related to altitude and operational endurance.

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Media reports reveal that Tapas failed to operate at the required altitude of 30,000 feet for at least 24 hours, falling short with an endurance of only around 18 hours at 28,000 feet. 

DRDO's Future Focus: Redesigning UAVs with Next-Gen Capabilities

In response to this setback, DRDO is set to redesign and redevelop a UAV that meets the necessary specifications with a focus on the development of UCAV with next-generation capabilities, which have not been specified yet. However, as per prior reports, DRDO is already focused on developing the Ghatak UAV OR Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft (AURA), which is an autonomous jet-powered stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), being developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the Indian Air Force.

The closure of the Tapas project has sparked controversy, with some,according to reports, claiming vested interests played a role in undermining the indigenous effort. The Indian armed forces, faced with the need for approximately 150 new MALE UAVs, have been relying on imports, including Israeli drones, for long-range surveillance and precision targeting. This is a severe setback as its western and Northern Adversaries have strengthened their own arsenals with a wide variety of modern combat-capable drones.

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Immediate Response: Indian Army's Deployment of Drishti-10 Drones

However, to address the immediate issue, the Army has placed orders for two of these medium-altitude, long-endurance drones from Adani Defence under emergency provisions, ensuring over 60 percent indigenization and compliance with the 'Make in India' in Defence initiative.

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The Drishti-10 drones, developed in collaboration with the Israeli firm Elbit Systems, were officially unveiled earlier this week by Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar and Director General Army Aviation Lt Gen Ajay Suri in Hyderabad. Adani Defence, having signed a technology transfer deal with Elbit, asserts that it has indigenied 70 percent of the drones and plans to increase this further.

The Indian Army intends to deploy these advanced drones in the Punjab sector, providing enhanced surveillance capabilities over a large area, including the desert sector and areas north of Punjab. The Drishti-10, also known as the Hermes-900, has a service ceiling of 30,000 feet and an endurance of 36 hours, making it a valuable asset for monitoring and safeguarding the border, and it has proven its real-time capabilities in war scenarios and in extensive counter-terrorism operations.

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Published January 15th, 2024 at 10:05 IST

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