The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), that awed viewers in the Bollywood hit '3 Idiots', has been officially inducted into the paramilitary forces. The Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) are using the drone, titled 'Netra', in counter-insurgency operations.
The autonomous UAV for surveillance and reconnaissance was inducted into the paramilitary forces last month while the army, navy and several state police forces have shown a keen interest in acquiring it, say its makers.
It was developed by Ideaforge Technology Pvt Ltd, a company floated by a group of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Mumbai alumni, and the Pune-based Research and Development Establishment (Engineers) laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
It is designed specifically for anti-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations in forested areas. It can be used in hostage situations like the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, border infiltration monitoring, local law enforcement operations, search and rescue operations, disaster management and aerial photography.
'Ten units of Netra have already been taken by the DRDO for research related works in their laboratories like Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) in Manali while less than a dozen have been provided to paramilitary forces,' IdeaForge vice-president (marketing and operations unmanned systems) Amardeep Singh told IANS.
Netra is light-weight (1.5 kg) and portable, constructed using carbon fibre composites, allowing a user to carry the system along with the control station to field locations. Each unit costs around Rs.15-20 lakh.
The operator simply selects the locations from a graphical interface showing the map of the area and specifies the heights with command either to hover or traverse through them.
'We have developed 10 prototypes of Netra that can suit the requirements of paramilitary forces, police and defence forces. We have now given the right of production to IdeaForge and those interested in buying it can directly get in touch with the company,' Alok Mukherjee, head of the robotics division of DRDO, told IANS.
Talking about its usage in paramilitary forces, Singh said Netra can help in catching the images of the mass movement of Maoists hiding in difficult terrains and alert the forces about their presence.
'We have also demonstrated the Netra during a political rally in Chandigarh at the request of police and several other state police forces have shown keen interest in procuring it,' said Singh.
The company is now working on the next version of Netra in order to increase the flight time from the present 30 minute per battery charge. It can fly in a radius of 1.5 km at an altitudes of around 200 metre.
'Netra flies using four high-speed propellers that allow vertical take-off and landing and provide the power to soar through the skies. It has a wireless video transmitter and high resolution CCD camera with pan/tilt and zoom that sends images back to the operator,' said Mukherjee.
The built-in intelligence in the controller allows for fail-safe operations wherein in case of either a communication failure with base station or low battery, the UAV returns to take-off position automatically.
(Richa Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)