Indian Army has been upgrading its UAV fleet and presently operates the Israeli UAVs of tactical and MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) categories apart from the smaller drones and quadcopters for various missions. Searcher Mark II and Herons form the main operational assets of the army, although indigenous development of UAVs are progressing with projects like Rustom, but falling behind timelines.
India is expecting to receive four more of the most advanced version of Heron UAV from Israel, despite the delays caused due to the ongoing global pandemic and also Israel embroiled in conflict with Hamas. These Herons are much more advanced than the ones already in the inventory with advanced jamming and navigation capabilities. Heron is a MALE UAV which can carry multiple payloads as per mission requirements including SAR (synthetic aperture radar).
The acquisition of these drones had been done under the emergency financial powers granted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government to the defence forces under which they can buy equipment and systems worth Rs 500 crores to upgrade their warfighting capabilities, amid ongoing border conflict with China. The deployment of these UAVs in Eastern Ladakh will be a tremendous boost to the surveillance capabilities along LAC, especially when PLA has upped its training and construction activities in the vicinity. These UAVs are capable of operating at high altitudes (30000 feet) for long hours (24 hours) at a stretch enabling continuous surveillance without terrain and time gaps.
Indian Navy has already inducted two Predator drones on lease and India is planning to buy 30 of these HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) armed drone systems (M9Q Reaper and M9QB Sea Guardian) from USA in near future. The Unmanned Aerial Systems are force multipliers which will provide the much needed surveillance and target acquisition capabilities to Indian armed forces. The new Herons from IAI, Israel can be used for both strategic and tactical missions at the borders providing real time intelligence and monitoring capabilities.