The Indian Air Force (IAF) has announced a unique and India’s very first drone competition in the defence sector which intends to select and shepherd participants from ideation to production. This will provide an opportunity to and support the fledgling talent, intellect and expertise, within the country in the field of UAV and will help emerging requirements of the Services in drone tech development.
The carnage of annual floods, cyclones and other natural disasters underlines focused efforts on the IAF’s need to respond better towards the need for enhanced Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, especially in the remote and far flung areas, hence the competition urges individuals, start-ups and other “for profit” entities to build a swarm of 50 drones to aid in efficient HADR response efforts.
The competition is split in three phases where those in Phase II & Phase III meet the jury set benchmarks, shall get their development cost reimbursed. IAF will pick up to three winners for the Mehar Baba Prize, each of whom will get Rs 10 lakh (USD $13,640) in prize money and an opportunity to co-produce a Rs 100 crore (USD $13.6 million) order for the introduction of the drones to the Air Force.
The competition’s prize is named in the honour of Late Air Commodore Mehar Singh, DSO MVC, affectionately called Mehar Baba. Commissioned as a Pilot Officer in 1936 at the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell, UK was posted to the sole squadron in the Royal Indian Air Force – No. 1 Squadron and then based in the North West Frontier. Post independence Mehar Baba was the first to land in Srinagar, was the first to land in Poonch in Kashmir, and later the first to land in Leh, Ladakh and Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) – the then highest altitude airstrip in the world.