French defence major Thales is eyeing the multi-billion dollar Indian UAV market as it aims to increase its presence here by also dipping into the small and medium scale defence industry. Thales is confident that its new mini UAV Spy’Ranger, being built with a French mid-tier company ‘Aviation Design’, will find inroads into the Indian market.
Though still under development phase, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) weighs around 15 kgs and is claimed to have a range of about 30 kms with an endurance of three hours.
“It is difficult not to see India as a potential market,” Pascal Secretin, Production Line Manager of the Unmanned Aerial Systems at Thales, said here when asked if Thales was looking at India as a potential market.
The spy ranger is apt for contact intelligence, reconnaissance among others, he said.
Thales even demonstrated the UAV before a group of journalists showcasing its abilities. However, the UAV, which transmits video in HD quality, could not clearly zoom in on people for longer duration, something which Secretin said is being worked on and will be finished by this year end.
Designed to be carried by one person, the UAV is made up of carbon fiber and can be assembled and dismantled within minutes.
“Even the ramp for take off is made with carbon fiber which makes it easy to carry and be deployed within minutes,” Secretin said.
Thales said it intends to become the European leader across the entire UAV sector with a complete offering of unmanned systems ranging from micro-UAS to tactical UAVs.
Meanwhile, Thales said, it is also looking at increasing its cooperation with the Indian small and medium scale industry.
Alain Monjaux, who heads the Thales’ programmes with small and medium scale industry said the group supports a huge network of SMEs and mid-size companies in France.
“On average, 75 per cent of our purchases in France (worth 1.7 billion Euro) are made with around 4,000 small/medium and mid-size suppliers (0.75 billion Euro with SMEs and 1 billion Euro with mid-tier firms),” he said.
Monjaux said that Thales, which has tied up with some of the small and medium scale defence firms in India, is looking at increasing its presence as and when fresh orders come.
In India’s UAV market, military application accounts for majority of the revenue share.
India presently owns Israel’s Searcher I, II and Heron UAVs, DRDO’s Rustom series besides Nishant long range UAVs.
India is also likely to purchase the US’ most successful medium range UAV Predator XP and plans to jointly manufacture Raven mini UAV.
The Army has plans to equip all infantry and mechanised battalions with a new squad of mini-UAVs. This is likely to be a ‘Make in India’ project where the primary company will be an Indian one which will have to tie up with foreign firms.
The Indian Army, Air Force and Navy propose to buy tactical UAVs, high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAVs, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAVs, and medium- altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAVs.