Made-in-India drones or unmanned air vehicles, called the eyes and ears of security forces, have got a shot in the arm with the coming together of public sector production and research agencies. Aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd said it had launched a major programme to produce three categories of drones or unmanned air vehicles for civil and military purposes. HAL Chairman T. Suvarna Raju said during the ongoing Aero India 2015, its design team was coming up with a 8 kg to 10 kg class medium UAVs for the services. It was partnering with defence research lab Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) for the latter’s Rustom-2, and with National Aerospace Labs for 2-kg micro air vehicles. Last year, looking at the demand, the company’s board approved starting a separate division for its UAVs business. It also maintains the few dozen UAVs that the Forces use. “We have the wherewithal for it,” he said. HAL and ADE sealed a tie-up for ADE’s Rs. 1,200-crore Rustom-2 MALE drone (short for medium altitude long endurance). HAL will invest Rs. 210 crore in the triangular programme, which may need a new production line. Bharat Electronics Ltd., another defence PSU, will provide ground support for the pilotless aircraft and put in Rs. 90 crore, Mr. Raju and ADE’s Director P. Srikumar told separately. ADE works on the operational Nishant, which is used by the Forces and made by HAL, as also Rustom-1 and Rustom-2 UAV programmes. It is also developing a range of micro, rotary (helicopter-like) and other air vehicles. Mr. Raju said HAL is also funding academia for UAV technology by starting a chair in IIT Kharagpur, mainly for a 2-tonne rotary UAV that can stop and watch an area. It is also working with ADE on this line and hopes to base it on the Cheetah/Chetak helicopters. The three Forces need a large number of drones for surveillance and intelligence gathering and are said to require several dozens of them. They are estimated to be using a mix of 40 Israeli and Indian UAVs, mainly along the Western border and in Naxal-hit areas. Eventually, the success of these activities is expected to bring down the imports. The Ministry of Home Affairs has requested for information on 18 ‘birds’. Drones reduce the risk of deploying precious security personnel in troubled areas. Mr. Srikumar said they are going to be the main security resource in the coming years.