August 10, 2020

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Indigenous tech for Indian Defence Ministry

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A large part of the responsibility to develop India’s defence technology is assigned to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Established in 1958, the DRDO is the highest body of research, regulation, and administration of the India Defence Research and Development Programme. Most of the DRDO’s major technologies and products include AI, which is implemented through the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) under the DRDO, or software developed by the Ministry’s electronic industry.

Earlier this week, the DRDO Chairman said that Government organisations cannot work in the entire range of technological innovations. He stressed on the need for the youth bring in ideas related to areas like cybersecurity and products, high-power lasers, electromagnetics, sensors and other future technologies.

Although technology alone cannot win all military campaigns and solve all defence issues, technological superiority offers militaries an advantage. In the vein of this, the Government aims to adopt more AI-based technologies and strengthen its electronic industry through indigenous product development.

Artificial Intelligence in Defence

Last year, the Ministry launched a multi-stakeholder task force for the strategic implementation of AI in national security and defence.

The task force has studied the issues and implications in AI and outlined its adoption in the defence sector, including roadmaps on how to integrate and embed AI technologies in military strategies.

A project has been sanctioned to the CAIR to develop AI-based solutions for signal intelligence to enhance the armed forces’ intelligence collation and analysis capabilities.  The total cost of the project is about US $51.6 billion.

The Ministry has implemented the Energy Harvesting Based Infrared Sensor Network for Automated Human Intrusion Detection project. It is partially based on the principles of IoT, has been sanctioned for around US $1.2 billion.

AI-based tools are expected to aid the defence forces constructively in areas like decision support, sensor data analysis, predictive maintenance, situational awareness, and accurate data extraction security.  These tools will assist defence personnel in better operations, maintenance and logistics support.

The Defence Electronic Industry

The Government intends to promote indigenous product development and manufacturing in the defence electronics sector by leveraging India’s advancements in IT and software to support a defence-driven ecosystem.

The Modified Special Incentive Package (MSIPS) provides financial incentives to attract investments in the Indian Electronic System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector. The Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC) scheme offers financial support to create state-of-the-art infrastructure for electronics manufacturing units in the country.

Some steps the Government has taken to encourage the tech innovation and R&D include an Electronics Development Fund (EDF) initiative. It has been set up as a “fund of funds” to participate in professionally managed “daughter funds”, which in turn will provide risk capital to companies that develop new technologies in areas of electronics, nano-electronics and other ITs.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) provides grants-in-aid support to institutes of higher learning like IITs (Indian Institute of Technology), IISc (Indian Institute of Science), Central Universities and R&D organisations to conduct research in identified thrust areas.

An Electropreneur Park has been set up in New Delhi to provide incubation for the development of the ESDM sector, which will contribute to IP creation and product development.

A National Centre of Excellence for Technology on Internal Security (NCETIS) has been established in IIT-Mumbai with the objective to address the internal security needs of the country by delivering technology prototypes and promoting domestic industry in internal security.

Other Government defence projects include a Centre of Excellence on the Internet of Things (IoT) that has been set up in Bengaluru, and a Patna-based incubation centre focussed on medical electronics.

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