BEL to develop smart UAVs, says BEL Director in an exclusive interview

Written by: Dr Anantha Krishnan M
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Bengaluru, June 03: Smart Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) flying out of the hangars of Defence Public Sector Undertaking Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) could be a striking possibility in future.

Speaking to OneIndia on the sidelines of BEL's annual press conference held in Bengaluru on Wednesday, BEL Director (R&D) Dr Ajit T Kalghatgi said that the thought process of developing UAVs has already begun in the Company.

Akash-weapon

"We are already supporting the activities of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in their UAV missions. Many of our systems are on board the current UAVs being developed by the Aeronautics Development Establishment (ADE). We are looking for partners to take the idea forward," Dr Kalghatgi told OneIndia.

This is for the first time that a BEL official has gone on record announcing the Company's foray into the UAV segment, hitherto an area commanded by the DRDO. The DRDO has already developed Nishant UAV, while the Rustom-1 and Rustom-II projects running concurrently in various stages of development. The flight trials of Rustom-1, II are actively been undertaken in Kolar by ADE.

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) too had announced its interest in the UAV segment couple of years back. HAL had said in 2013 that a separate wing would be established for the UAV segment to cater to the needs of police and the paramilitary forces.

Dr Kalghatgi said that BEL will be entering the fray in the Medium Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) UAV segment. "It's in a very initial stage now," he added.

BEL Chairman and Managing Director S K Sharma said that the company is expecting additional orders for the Akash Missile System. To a specific query on the Akash Mk-II version, Sharma gave a vague reply.

He said BEL would set aside Rs 1500 crore for R&D in the next 3 years. "We are coming with a Greenfield Weapon Systems facility in Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh at a cost of Rs 500 crore. We have already acquired the land for the same," Sharma said.

He said a separate wing for Make in India has already started functioning in the Company.

Highlights of BEL's performance during last FY

• Registered a growth of 8 per cent during 2014-15 as against 3% in 2013-14
• Exports registered a growth of 38%
• BEL has an order book of around Rs 21,600 crores as on April 1, 2015
• Turnover from indigenous technology was around 80%

Some of the major orders received during last FY

• L 70 gun upgrade
• Shakti COMINT Shipborne EW system
• Mobile Communication Terminal
• Hull Mounted Sonar for P15B
• Advanced Composite Communication
•Combat Management System for P15 & P16 Alpha
• Radio Relay Frequency
• Coastal Surveillance System (Maldives)

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)

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