Tuesday, April 13, 2021

As India’s Drone Industry Takes Wing, Turkey Emerges As A ‘UAV Superpower’

At a time when India has started investing in military drone technology, Turkey has taken another leap forward by designing its first artificial intelligence (AI)-powered combat drone.

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Turkish drone manufacturer Baykar Defense has reportedly begun the phase of conceptual design. Over the years, Turkey has made rapid strides in drone technology by the right mix of planned financial investment and technical know-how.

Turkey’s emergence as a ‘drone superpower’ was “by no means peaceful and comes as a result of various confrontations between Russian and Turkish proxies in the Near East,” according to Nicholas Velazquez, who writes for Geopolitical Monitor.

The capabilities demonstrated by the Bayraktar TB2 UAV in the Libyan and Syrian civil wars have consolidated Turkey’s position as a drone superpower. It has now joined the august company of the US, Israel, China, and the UK that have achieved many milestones in the UAV domain.

A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone

Indian Drone Industry

In contrast, India seems to be taking baby steps in the UAV sector with the country recently setting up a dedicated Drones Directorate to focus on the UAV. While drones have been in use for military purposes since 1999, their commercial usage was legalized only in 2018.

The Indian drone market has grown rapidly in the past two years. An industry report indicates that the market for drones in the country is expected to reach around $885.7 million by the end of this year.

In light of the projected growth, the country will have to produce UAVs meant for different sectors, and it looks like New Delhi is moving forward with it.

File:Rustom-2 Model.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
DRDO’s Rustom-2 drone

The country’s premier research institute, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is currently developing the indigenous Rustom-2 medium-altitude long-endurance drone. “This will be a huge step,” said a senior government official.

The indigenously-developed drone has been designed for strategic reconnaissance and surveillance operations. In April, India will test-fly the homegrown Rustom-2 drone from the Chitraguda test range in Karnataka. It is learned that the drone will fly for more than 18 hours at a height of over 27,000 feet.

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Also known as the Tactical Airborne Platform for Aerial Surveillance-Beyond Horizon 201 (Tapas-BH), the Rustom-2 drone successfully completed the last flight test in October last year after flying at an altitude of 16,000 feet for a period of eight hours.

Currently, the DRDO Bharat light surveillance quadcopter drone, which has been developed by DRDO for the Indian Army, is considered the most advanced homegrown drone.

Although India is moving forward, how long it will take to catch up with the likes of Turkey, only time will tell.

Turkey Making Rapid Progress

The development of an AI-powered combat drone has been labeled as the “top priority program” by Haluk Bayraktar, General Manager of Baykar Defense.

“The privately-owned company will complete the conceptual design phase by 2023, the centennial of the Turkish republic,” said Bayraktar.

The upcoming AI-powered drone will possess the ability to fly at an operating altitude of 40,000 feet and will be able to carry out missions for five hours while being connected to a satellite communications data network.

In addition, the drone will be super-speedy with a cruise speed of 0.8 Mach. It will be able to carry a maximum of 1 ton of payload and would be used in close air support, strategic assault, hostile air defense system attacks, and missile assault missions.

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