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Defence Ministry announces startup challenge to develop drones, AI-based satellite image analysis

The Defence Ministry launched a startup challenge to build solutions around underwater drones and AI-based satellite image analysis, among other things. The challenge — Defence India Startup Challenge 4 — was announced at the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) event on Tuesday, and selected startups and MSMEs stand to win a grant of ₹1.5 crores, in tranches, to develop their solution. Interested startups can submit their applications at idexdio@ddpmod.gov.in until November 30. Last month, India had placed a ban on importing fixed-wing mini drones for military purposes from December 2020.

This is the fourth in a series of startup challenges, organised by iDEX, which was first launched in 2018 to help develop technology-based solutions for the defence sector, by offering startups and MSMEs building those solutions, grants and funds. iDEX is funded and managed by a Defence Innovation Organization (DIO), a non to for profit company, set up by defence-undertakings Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Bharat Electronics.

The solutions that are to be built as part of DISC 4: 

  • Autonomous underwater swarm drones
  • AI-based satellite image analysis
  • Predictive, preventive and prescriptive machine monitoring
  • Super resolution for improving spatial resolution
  • Prediction and forecasting of atmospheric visibility
  • Computer generated targets for virtual training
  • Remote real-time in-flight health monitoring of aircrew
  • Foliage penetration radar
  • Reduction of RCS (radar cross-section) of naval warships
  • Target detection in chaff environment (a radio-frequency countermeasure released by military aircraft)
  • MF-TDMA (Multi-frequency time-division multiple access) based wideband SATCOM modem

As per iDEX’s website, the drones should be equipped with advanced image processing and Artificial Intelligence capabilities, and should be able to detect underwater mines. The AI-based satellite image analysis will be used for target identification and classification along with recognition of various spatial parameters and troop movements. The Defence Ministry also launched a set of guidelines to monitor product development milestones achieved by iDEX winners.

“In order to further strengthen our defence system and make it self-reliant the participation of private sector is also crucial. For this we have taken certain steps like partnerships with private sector, technology transfer, 74 % FDI through automatic route and the recently released negative list of 101 items for import ban after a stipulated period,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said.

Aside from this, the Ministry also announced an initiative where defence personnel will be able to submit their own tech-related solutions. Called iDEX4Fauji, the initiative aims to support innovations identified by members of the armed forces “There are more than 13 Lakh service personnel working in the field and on borders, handling extreme conditions and equipment and would be having many ideas and innovations to improve such equipment. There was no mechanism to support such innovations.  iDEX4Fauji would open this window and allow our Faujis [solidiers] to become part of the innovation process and get recognised and rewarded. Services Headquarters will provide support to the soldiers & field formations all over the country to ensure maximum participation,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

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