Pune-based firm bags DRDO, Navy contract for development of underwater-launched UAV


New Delhi: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), along with the Navy, has awarded a contract to the Pune-based defence manufacturing firm, Sagar Defence Engineering, to develop an underwater-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (ULUAV).

The agreement, aimed at boosting India’s underwater capabilities, pertains to developing a ULUAV that will launch from a submarine and operate autonomously, with the ability to land on another moving vessel. It will also come equipped with technologies such as cameras, sonar, and other sensors to collect data.

The ULUAV will have high endurance and long range, and hence, it will have a huge surprise element advantage, said Sagar Defence in a press statement. It will be capable of being deployed quickly, safely, and autonomously from a moving submarine, added the statement.

“Operating in tandem with the ULUAV enables discreet surveillance missions, allowing submarines to monitor potential threats without revealing their presence. This innovation represents a paradigm shift in naval Defence technology, offering unparalleled flexibility and precision in underwater engagements (sic),” it further said.

The agreement was signed between the Director of Technology Development Fund (TDF) at DRDO, Nidhi Bansal, and Sagar Defence Engineering in the presence of the Director of Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Dr G.A.S. Murthy, and Indian Navy and TDF officials.

On how the TDF and DRDL will be involved with the project, Sagar Defence Engineering Chief Executive Officer Captain Nikunj Parashar, in a written response, told ThePrint, “They will create a bridge among the armed force, SDEPL (Sagar Defence Engineering Private Limited), and certifying agencies. They will also provide the grant in aid for the project.”

He added that they will also provide technical assistance and mentorship while the project progresses, along with technology development vetting.

The TDF will also assist Sagar Defence Engineering with the development of the ULUAV. Sagar Defence Engineering earlier developed the maritime spotter drone for the Indian Navy, with the capability to take off and launch from a moving platform.

Parashar said, “The ULUAV provides a high tactical advantage, achieved through RF (radio frequency) data-link transmissions that can reach the submarine positioned under the ocean’s surface.”

He added that the ULUAV, which will significantly enhance submarine sensor range and operational capabilities, will be used for conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, providing radio relays by seamlessly integrating into the existing fleet for mid-term operational advantages.

Parashar said, “As submarines cannot observe beyond the horizon visible through their periscope, deploying the ULUAV while submerged will greatly enhance the submarine’s situational awareness and deceptive capabilities, gaining significant strategic and tactical advantage to engage with multiple targets simultaneously.”

He added that the ability to deploy autonomous aerial vehicles from underwater platforms will be a critical factor in maintaining maritime security.

(Edited by Madhurita Goswami)

Also read: ‘A theatre of rivalries’ — geospatial tech key to Indo-Pacific security, says Indian military brass


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