IIT-Bombay’s firm bags deal to supply drones for Indian Army
A start-up founded and incubated by the alumni of Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), has signed a deal to build and supply advanced tactical drones worth ₹130 crore to the Indian Army. This is the biggest such order in terms of the contract value, for any Indian equipment manufacturer for drones.
ideaForge, which beat top Israeli and Indian drone manufacturers to get the coveted contract, will be providing an undisclosed number of drones that can operate at higher altitudes, to the armed forces, the company announced on Thursday in a statement. A high-altitude variant of the company’s Switch UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) will be delivered over a period of a year, the statement read.
“An inspiring story of a start-up turning into an enterprise and creating world-class innovations and products. A real trail blazer,” Sanjay Jaju, joint secretary to Government of India at the department of defence production, tweeted.
ideaForge was incubated in 2007 at the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) at IIT-B by four alumni members—Ankit Mehta, Rahul Singh, Ashish Bhat and Vipul Joshi. While initially, they built hand-cranked chargers, the enterprise soon shifted gears to building a hovercraft and eventually entered the drone manufacturing market. The company is a licensed manufacturer of UAVs approved by the Ministry of Defence.
Based in Mumbai, currently, the company offers seven UAVs that are used in a range of applications including mapping, traffic management, surveillance, crowd management and security. Some of these drones are already in use by the armed forces.
The Switch UAV is a fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing UAV that can be deployed at high altitude and harsh environments for day and night surveillance in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. It is man-portable and has the highest time on target compared to any other UAV in its class, said chief executive officer (CEO) Mehta, a dual degree holder in computer-aided design and automation from the 2005 batch of IIT-B.
“The Switch UAV is a culmination of insights and knowledge we have gained over years of experience in helping the Indian Forces operationalise UAVs in their ranks. The trials saw about a dozen national and global players compete to meet the operational requirements. Switch UAV is the only product that cleared the Indian Army’s stringent product trials and surpassed expectations. It is a testimony of the fact that our systems are built like a bird and tested like a tank. Our systems are fully ready to serve nations that seek to protect their territorial sovereignty,” said Mehta hinting at the company’s plan for exporting the drones.
“This is a classic example of how government-funded start-ups can help the country grow. We at SINE provided a seed fund to ideaForge from the grants we received from the government. It is now prudent that the government itself is reaping the benefits,” said Poyni Bhatt, chief executive officer, SINE.
The Army has placed an order for the advanced high-altitude version of SWITCH UAV, a vertical take-off and landing drone. It is a fixed-wing hybrid Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. It’s features include:
Advanced flight time with a range of 15 km
Around 2.6m long and 1.8m wide and weighs less than 6.5 kg
Higher safety and simple operation with additional fail-safe redundancies
Used for long-duration operations harsh environments for day and night surveillance in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions