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swarm drones: India places orders for drones, loitering munitions


The armed forces have signed contracts with Indian defence companies and startups under the fast-track process for acquisition of new-age weapons, according to people aware of development, a move that will see home-grown systems speedily delivered to the frontline. The contracts were signed last week.

The army has placed its first-ever order for swarm drone systems which are capable of surveillance and attack missions, cutting-edge loitering munitions that are being made in India, and drones capable of carrying loads to high altitudes, the people cited earlier said.

The air force has signed up for a mobile anti-drone system while the navy will get a similar system for its warships. Processed under the fast-track procedure, all the contracts have been placed on domestic companies as part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative, and will be delivered within a year, according to the sources.


The army has taken the lead in swarm drones–considered as the future of warfare–by placing a Rs 200-cr order on Indian startups to supply a system capable of surveillance, electronic warfare and kinetic attack. Bengaluru-based startup NewSpace Research and Tech has been selected for the contract, the sources said.

NewSpace Research is also working with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. for a futuristic air-launched swarm drone system, called Combat Air Teaming System (CATS), which envisages a manned aircraft capable of launching multiple drones to carry out high-risk missions, including taking down of enemy air defences.

Another startup, Noida-based Raphe mPhibr, has been awarded a contract for swarm drones as well as a load carrying unmanned aerial vehicle that can be used to supply essentials to troops at difficult locations.

While the air force is also looking at swarm drones, the army has taken the lead to order the system, catching up with similar efforts in the US, UK, Russia and China to use multiple drones for carrying out coordinated military missions.

The army has also ordered its first domestically produced loitering munitions–medium-sized UAVs fitted with an explosive warhead that home into a target in a suicide mission.

The`100-crore contract for 125 of the loitering munitions has been placed with Alpha Design Technologies, which will make them at its Bengaluru-based facility in partnership with Elbit of Israel, the sources said.

Given their low cost, these systems are capable of disproportionate damage in the battlefield. Alpha, which already has been producing the weapons at Bengaluru for export, is confident of delivering all 125 systems within 12 months to the army. According to the sources, the IAF has placed orders with Hyderabad-based Zen Tech for a mobile anti-drone system.

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