Post release of the Indian Government ‘Drone Rules, 2021’, which comprised major upgrades of the existing drone norms, there has been considerable excitement in the Drone Industry, both from the OEM as well as the end Users perspective. This is understandable as the Indian Drone market, as per the GoI, is expected to surpass USD 6.69 Billion in the next five years. The military is also not lagging behind in laying firm plans for early adoption in its combat policies and tactics as a result of which a large number of Start-Ups and MSME’s are jumping on to the bandwagon, buoyed by public pronouncements on budgetary outlays and acquisition plans for Drones in various forums. Having interacted with a number of Drone OEM’s, having been a part of the design stage thinking and having an operational users perspective, this article, the first of a series, highlights the important critical technology building blocks which will be critical to use of Drones in a military environment and must not be ignored in the noise of business. The following are the mission critical blocks that must be factored in the design stage itself:-

  1. Application Development Framework to enable agile composition and extensions of the application to cater to the dynamically evolving operational scenario based on best effort output.
  2. Data Fusion for fusion of multi-sensor multi-target data. This will also include temporal alignment for synchronisation at the millisecond level.
  3. Situational Awareness & Common Operational Picture (COP) based on GIS for Decision Support to seamlessly display information from disparate sensors and incorporating design elements of superior UI/UX.
  4. Cognitive Information Processing using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for event correlation, reasoning, learning and automated decision support.
  5. Information Processing kernel for leveraging IT assets/technologies including Knowledge Management (KM) Systems.
  6. Communications middleware for communications grid and network integration as well as functioning in electronically/spectrally degraded environment.
  7. Information Assurance to ensure security and fidelity of all the information/data storage, processing and in transit in the communications network at the desired data rates and security classification. This would entail home grown encryption systems, red/black security, black boxes and data diodes, authentication technologies as well as real time operating systems (RTOS) with ARINC 653 etc.

I will discuss each of these technology blocks in a series of subsequent articles. Part 2 follows. Maintain listening watch !