India’s drone arsenal

Drones are no longer restricted to sci-fi movies. They are as mainstream as any other modern gadget.

Realizing the inherent potential in drone technology, India is trying to develop drone technology on its own with DRDO, HAL at the helm. While India develops its own drones, it is leveraging imported drone technology to bolster its surveillance and intelligence capabilities. Hence, many drones are being procured from countries like Israel, USA and UK etc.

As a UPSC aspirant you must know a little factual knowledge about these drones. It is an important area from UPSC examination perspective, esp. Prelims.

Let us begin.

Heron [ISRAEL]
  • India is expected to acquire four Heron TP long-endurance drones from Israel on lease to primarily boost its surveillance capabilities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
  • The drones are capable of operating for nearly 45 hours at an altitude of up to 35,000 feet.
  • They are equipped with automatic taxi-takeoff and landing (ATOL) and satellite communication (SATCOM) systems for an extended range.
  • India is already in possession of certain Heron variants.
Predator [USA]
  • India is also planning to procure around 30 multi-mission armed Predator drones from the US for the three services.
  • The medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) Predator-B drones, are capable of remaining airborne for around 35 hours and can hunt down targets at land and sea.
Sea Guardian [USA]
  • The Navy got two non-weaponized MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from the US on lease for one year with an option of extending the period by another year.
  • It is the marine variant of Predator drones.
Fire-Fly ‘loitering munition’ [ISRAEL]

Indian Army is also likely to acquire FireFly ‘loitering munition’ built by Israel’s Rafael.

  • A loitering munition is a UAV that carries a warhead to attack a target on the ground while flying over (‘loitering’) over the war zone. While the early generation of loitering munitions were meant to attack air defence radars, newer systems can hit multiple types of targets on the ground, including enemy personnel in entrenched positions.
Harpy and Harop loitering munition [ISRAEL]
  • The Indian Air Force operates the Israeli-made Harpy loitering munition and its upgraded the version, the Harop. Loitering munitions like the Harpy and Harop can loiter for up to six hours and have sophisticated sensors
Rustom – 2 [INDIA]
  • In 2020, Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) flight tested the Rustom-2 medium altitude long endurance indigenous prototype drone.
  • It is a surveillance drone.
  • Rustom-2 is capable of carrying different combinations of payloads depending on the mission objectives including synthetic aperture radar, electronic intelligence systems and situational awareness systems.
  • It has a satellite communication link to relay situation in the battle theatre on real time basis.
  • DRDO expects Rustom-2 surveillance drone to match the specifications of the Israeli Heron unmanned aerial vehicle used by the Indian Air Force and Navy.
CATS Warrior [INDIA]
  • The Combined Air Teaming System (CATS) programme will have a mother ship (fighter jets) and few autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles known as CATS Warrior.
  • The vehicle will have the capacity to carry out a strike. It will be able to stealthily enter 700 km inside enemy territory.

Note: We’ll keep updating this page regularly.

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