Mumbai, India – It was in December 2010 when Netra, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), was demonstrated for the first time by its makers before various paramilitary forces such as NSG, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Delhi Police, Maharashtra Police and the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force. The UAV, which drew special attention from forces that time, has now found a place in anti-insurgency operations.
Netra has been developed jointly by Mumbai-based firm Ideaforge Technology Pvt Ltd and city-based Research and Development Establishment (R&DE) (Engineers) laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). “It was in 2008 when Ideaforge had presented their innovation at a symposium at DRDO. Though the product was at an initial stage, we saw a lot of potential in it and signed a contract with the company for developing it further,” said Alok Mukherjee, joint director, R&DE (Engineers), DRDO.
“We have been giving demonstration of the equipment to various paramilitary forces and have been receiving a great response. In fact, some of them are already using the system,” said Amardeep Singh, vice president, marketing and operations, unmanned systems, Ideaforge. The makers claim to have received orders for almost a dozen pieces of Netra till now.
Mukherjee added during the development stage DRDO had made 10 prototypes that were put under various tests including minus 10 degrees to plus 55 degrees temperature tests and also in high-altitude locations. “Now that the development is over, production is taken care by Ideaforge,” he said.
Netra is a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) UAV with Quadrotor (4 rotor) configuration. Other than the motors, there is no moving part, which makes it almost maintenance free. All the manoeuvres can be performed by independently by controlling the speeds of these rotors. The user does not have to care about the flight and navigation since all of this is done by a smart auto-pilot on-board. “It consists of a user interface which offers way-point navigation and the user just has to specify the target location. The UAV automatically reaches the desired location,” said Singh.
Interestingly, there is a misconception that the makers got an inspiration for the system from Hindi film 3 Idiots, where an engineering student is portrayed building a similar piece for his project work. “The idea was conceptualised much before the release of the film. However, the film’s popularity added to it,” said Mukherjee.
The system is applicable in anti-terrorist operations, counter-insurgency in forested areas, hostage situations, border infiltration monitoring, local law enforcement operations, search and rescue operations, disaster management and much more.
The makers have added some more features in the system to suit the requirement of different security forces. For instance, developments of a back pack, which allows the system to be operated by a soldier on field while moving. Another customised feature is the high zoom camera with electronic video stabilisation which has significantly improved the capability of the system to spot a target from far off distances.