We attended the recently concluded UAV India Civil and Military 2018 organized by Indian Military Review and CENJOWS conducted on 6-7 November. The event was divided into two tracks: Military and Civil.

Military Track:

The military track saw presentations by speakers from all the three wings of armed forces. UAVs have been a part of the military arsenals since WW2 when they were used for target practice. Since then there has been a tremendous development in the UAV tech led by the USA which is famous for deploying the Predator drones in the Afghanistan conflict.

The requirement of the armed forces was summarized as a UAV which has the capability to ‘Find, Fix and Fire’. The military establishment woed the dependance on imports and urged the industry to step up to the challenge of indigenous manufacturing. TOT was described as one of the biggest challenges facing the military with regards to adopting the drones. Another challenge currently being faced by the military, especially the infantry, is the endurance of drones on high altitudes. In spite of these challenges, the armed forces are planning to acquire UAVs on a large scale and there is an estimated demand of 2500, 5000 and 4000 Mini UAVs by the Army, Air Force and Navy respectively. Training of personnel for piloting the UAVs still remains a big challenge for the armed forces.

Civil Track:

The civil track saw participation by officials from NHAI, Delhi Police, CRPF and the Mining Department. With the release of the CAR by DGCA bound to come into effect by December there was an enthusiasm within the civilian authorities.

The presenters described how the drones are currently being used. The uses included detection of illegal mining, monitoring riots, surveying of highways and traffic monitoring.

One of the major concern was the implementation of CAR. As of now very little information has come from DGCA as to how the CAR will be implemented. Whether the proposed Digital Sky platform will be able to handle the NPNT requests was also something that bothered the officials and industry alike. The participants from the industry expressed discontentment over not being able to get more clarity over the DGCA regulations. For example, how will a UAV be able to get the NPNT approval from the Digital Sky platform in remote areas where most of survey and mining activities might take place.

With the global UAV market set to grow at 15-20% CAGR, there is a big opportunity in this space. Whether the Indian industry will be able to capitalize on this growth and turn India from a net importer to an exporter to UAVs is a question that remains to be seen.