Indian defence research agency eyes robotic soldier, mule

Chennai, Dec 11: India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is in the process of building robotic soldiers and mules as a part of its unmanned fighting systems of the future, said an official Sunday.

‘We are working on building soldier robots that can work like a human soldier. Such a robot needs data base, artificial intelligence to carrying out its activities and the DRDO is planning to build such a robot,’ V.K. Saraswat, scientific advisor to defence minister and director general, DRDO, told reporters here.

After inaugurating new facilities inside the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) campus, he said the DRDO was also planning to design a robotic mule that could replace a real one used by soldiers in mountainous terrain.

The DRDO has already developed Daksh, a remote-controlled robotic vehicle, for detecting and destroying dangerous objects like bombs and has been approved by the Indian Army for induction.

The army will start trials of DRDO’s main battle tank Arjun Mark II from next October, said P. Sivakumar, director, CVRDE.

He said the army had ordered 124 units of the upgraded Arjun tanks.

According to him, the CVRDE would be completing the supply of Mark I version of Arjun tanks by March 2012. ‘We have supplied 110 units out of the total 124 units that were ordered,’ he said.

The Indian tanks were far cheaper, costing around Rs.21 crore each, as compared to Rs.56 crore each of American battle tanks of a similar nature.

‘If there are more orders then the cost would come down further,’ added Saraswat.

According to Sivakumar, the CVRDE was planning to source the battle tank engines and transmission systems from BEML Ltd. Presently, the engines and transmissions were imported.

Queried about the commercialisation of the technologies developed by the DRDO, Saraswat said the annual revenue was currently around Rs.30 crore and it was growing.

He earlier inaugurated the new technology centre, jointly set up by the CVRDE and BEML, a suspension testing facility for Arjun tank and combat veronics technology centre.

The centre will address the design and development of defence products and aggregates including research and development products.

According V.R.S. Natarajan, chairman and managing director of BEML, the two organisations are now working together with a foreign firm for building and supplying 155 mm, 52 calibre tracked gun.

BEML supported the CVRDE in development of Arjun tank sub-systems, documentation and other activities.

The new centre is being set up for better and faster coordination between BEML and CVRDE. BEML will depute 18 engineers to work at the new centre.

IANS