Defence Drone policies in India

The rise of drones has led to a significant increase in the number of these aircraft within the Services. They are capable of carrying out surveillance and even carrying out punitive actions. Despite being regarded as the slowest in the world when it comes to changing, the armed forces are constantly adapting to new technologies. One of these is drone warfare. It was expected that the IAF would lead the transformation of the drone industry. However, instead, it is the Army that is looking into buying more UAVs to meet its operational requirements. The Army is interested in various types of drones, such as those used for surveillance, long-range systems, and kamikaze attacks. They also have a variety of logistics drones.

Due to the increasing number of drones being used in warfare, various regulations related to the use of these aircraft have been changed. Some of these include the COMSEC, TRANSEC and Electronic Warfare policies. Modern Air Defense systems are designed to accommodate the hunting capabilities of drones. The development of artificial intelligence (AI) on the edge has led to the emergence of new drone technologies. These new capabilities have raised the bar for drone warfare. Although anti-UAV systems are already in their development stages, they are still years away from being able to effectively combat these aircraft. The government’s indigenization push has led to the right trajectory for the country’s future warfare. However, the journey is not yet easy. The manufacturing industry of drone components will be key to success.

Rise of India’s Drone Industry

For over two decades now, the Indian Armed Forces have been operating foreign-made drones. The country’s drone industry has been working on developing indigenous aircraft that can be used to meet the requirements of the armed forces. Although the requirements for ruggedized ground controllers and aircraft airframes have been addressed by the industry, the Defense Department is still focused on developing indigenous solutions. One of these is the drone Flight Controller, which is designed to meet the standards of the Military Intelligence (MIL).

In order to ensure that their drones are secure, the indigenous drone suppliers have to regularly update their hardware and software. They also need to perform cybersecurity tests to identify potential security issues. The certification of embedded systems for drones should be done in order to make the Indian industry more competitive. The need to ensure that the drone components used in India are made in the country is a well-established fact. This is because the lack of local supply of cost-effective alternatives to Chinese components has been a major challenge for the manufacturers of drones. The government’s decision to promote the drone industry can be regarded as a step toward establishing an indigenous warfare strategy.

An airborne drone is a type of unmanned aircraft that doesn’t require a pilot to operate. It is also referred to as an UAV. Currently, the development of completely independent drones is still in its final stages. In India, drones are being used in various fields such as defense, commercial, and recreational. The drone market in India is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. This is due to the country’s potential to become a leading player in the global drone industry. The manufacturing opportunities in the country are also expected to boost the country’s employment rate. The government has allocated about 5,000 crores for the development of the drone industry in the country. This will help create over 10,000 jobs in the next three years.

Indian Drone Manufacturing Industry Set-up

Civilians are currently using drones for various civilian activities. Due to the advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, and miniaturization, the technology has allowed companies to carry out different tasks with minimal human intervention. These innovations have also supported the commercial use of drones in sectors such as agriculture, power, mining, and infrastructure. The rapid emergence and growth of the drone industry in India has been attributed to the country’s increasing number of manufacturers. There are also several start-up companies and listed players in the space.

Despite the pandemic that affected various sectors of the country, the drone industry in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.5% during the next few years. The technological advancements that have occurred in the field of drone have allowed companies to reduce their operational costs and improve their efficiency. One of the main factors that has been driving the adoption of drones in India is their ability to monitor large areas in real time.

Opportunities for drone making in India

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of drones was instrumental in providing medical and law enforcement agencies with effective and timely response to the situation. The government’s liberalized regulations and manufacturing incentives have been designed to create a conducive environment for the development of the drone industry in India. This strategy will allow companies to expand their operations and provide effective solutions for the drone industry. Besides manufacturing components, this strategy will also allow them to develop software applications and other enterprise-focused solutions.  Hundreds of startups in India are currently developing drone-related businesses that can solve various problems such as monitoring crops, inspecting power lines, and monitoring construction sites. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has also launched a new program to encourage collaboration between drone companies and foreign firms. Through a new treaty between Israel and India, the two governments are expected to provide aid to a joint venture that will be established to develop drone technology. The country’s startup ecosystem is already developing various drone-related businesses. Once the DGCA gives its approval to the applications of drone technology for commercial use, it will allow companies to start using this new technology to deliver goods and services. Unfortunately, the current legislation regarding drone use is not yet ready to accommodate this new technology. Due to the increasing demand for drones, many startups in India started raising funds and gaining recognition. The revenue generated from the drone technology’s business-to-business applications is expected to grow significantly over the next few years

The government’s think tank, NITI Aayog, has estimated that the country’s unmanned aircraft market will grow to over $50 billion over the next 15 years. It noted that drones are expected to replace the majority of the operations carried out by manned aircraft.

India’s defense drone policy

The Indian Army is putting a lot of effort into improving its security apparatus by using state-of-the-art technologies. It is also planning on using drones for carrying out tactical and strategic operations. This will be done through the expertise of drone maker, Garuda Aerospace, based in Chennai. Through its partnership with the Indian Army, Garuda Aerospace has been able to create a significant traction in the drone industry. The company has been able to deploy multiple drones for various tactical and strategic operations.

The drones being used by the Indian Army are indigenously developed and have artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. In order to modify them, the company has been invited to send its technical team. This will help the army maintain its operational tempo and timeline. The Indian Army is constantly working to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its demining operations. This dangerous task is carried out at an incredibly high cost. The Indian Army is also planning on using drones for various other tasks, such as detecting and disrupting transnational criminal organizations. These will help boost the army’s effectiveness in carrying out special missions.

In order to enhance the Indian Army’s capabilities in modern warfare, the organization has allowed acceptance of Necessity for the procurement of armed drone swarms and autonomous surveillance systems. The Indian Army and the Drone Federation of India have signed an MOU to work together on the development and manufacturing of drones. Through this collaboration, the Indian Army and DFI will be able to promote the development of niche products and technology for the Indian Army.

The MoD is currently looking into acquiring mini UAV platforms that can be equipped with thermal and electro-optic imaging capabilities to spot and monitor targets on the ground and in the air. This will help in identifying and preventing cross-border terrorist activities and unauthorized drones. The IAF has also awarded a contract to an Indian company for the production of anti-drone systems. This project complements the organization’s efforts to protect air bases in the country.

The global market for military drones is expected to grow from around $12 billion to over $31 billion in the next few years. India was one of the early participants in the drone industry. In the 1980s, the Indian Air Force modified an American drone into a desi drone. This led to the development of the country’s indigenous UAV program. The DRDO then used this as a template for developing the Lakshya target drone, which can fire beyond-visual-range missiles. While the DRDO has also started developing various short-range drones, such as the Gagan, which is equipped with a synthetic-aperture radar. The company’s next step is to develop a more advanced Long-range drone that will be able to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance operations at an altitude of up to 6,000 feet. Despite the various technological advancements that have been made in the field of defense over the years, the army is still not able to effectively counter the multiple offensive capabilities of UAVs. For instance, they can easily fool radars and jammers by launching multiple attacks at the same time.


Although the drone industry in India is still in its nascent stages, it is expected to grow significantly due to the government’s support and the rapid emergence of multiple drone manufacturing companies. This technology can be used to reduce the manufacturing costs and make it more globally competitive. The government’s indigenisation efforts are in the right direction, and are expected to help the drone industry in India flourish. This will allow the country to compete in the global market. Multiple use cases across different sectors are expected to drive the demand for drones. The rapid emergence and growth of the drone industry is expected to create numerous employment opportunities in the country. It is also expected to help boost the country’s economic growth. The government and various companies are recognizing the potential of the drone manufacturing industry. While, the objective of the new guidelines is to encourage the investment in the drone industry and the creation of new startups in India. India can become a global hub for drone technology by 2030. The implementation of the PLI scheme and the drone rules are expected to help the drone industry in India grow. According to the manufacturers of drones, the new guidelines have already resulted in a significant increase in their sales. Due to the availability of the PLI scheme, foreign companies are also considering setting up their operations in India to benefit from the country’s growing drone industry. This will allow them to create a self-sufficient manufacturing ecosystem for drones

The government’s recent initiatives have allowed the armed forces of India to explore the full potential of unmanned aircraft. These have allowed the country’s armed forces to develop new roles for them, such as providing intelligence-gathering and surveillance. The Army has also started managing the various drones that it has acquired. One of the biggest challenges that the Indian armed forces faces is the lack of indigenous combat drones, such as the US’ Reapers and the Predators. These are capable of carrying out attacks on their targets using missiles and satellites. If the country’s stealth wing flying test bed, which is the prototype of a stealth drone, is any indication, then this issue might soon be solved. Besides the existing offensive UAV platforms, the army also needs to develop a robust anti-UAV system, such as the Israeli Smash 2000 rifles. This weapon can be used to track and destroy hostile UAVs. The army’s jamming system can detect and destroy quad copters that are over three kilometers away. This is useful for troops stationed along the western border.

Vaibhav Tomar
Vaibhav Tomar
Vaibhav Tomar is research associate at CESCUBE. He is highly interested in International relations, great power competition in Indo Pacific, Maritime security, emerging warfare concepts and military strategies. And has experience in primary and secondary research. He can be reached at vtomar866[at]