DC Enterprises’ Red Hawk
DC Enterprises’ Red Hawk

Tata Advanced Systems (TAS), the wholly owned aircraft and defence systems subsidiary of Tata Sons Ltd, has tied up with DC Enterprises (DCE), a Bangalore-based firm run by a father and son team, to make mini air vehicles (MAVs) for defence, paramilitary and disaster management applications.

TAS is setting up a fabrication unit in Bangalore. The small aircraft, with wing spans of 6 to 18 inches, are to be built out of carbon fibre composites, and is estimated to cost Rs.60-80 lakh each.

While TAS is investing in building the factory, DCE will provide the technology on payment of a royalty, said N. Chandrashekar, who set up DCE in 2005.

The investment from TAS is low at this stage, as capital expenditure requirements to make such small aircraft are not big. Industry experts estimate it to be in the region of Rs.20 lakh.

A TAS executive in Bangalore did not deny the development, but expressed inability to comment without authorization. He did not officially respond to emailed questions sent on Friday. In the last five years, DCE has exported some 4,000 tiny motors, weighing just a few grams and costing between $60-90 (Rs.2,712-4,068), mainly targeting the overseas aero modelling market, a niche market being catered to by just a handful of firms.

The venture provides TAS “a potential partner who can take up significant work share in upcoming large UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) projects like the mini UAV project of the Indian Army, thereby improving TAS’ own capability to respond effectively to the programme,” said Rahul Gangal, executive vice-president, defence advisory services, Religare Capital Markets Ltd.

“The tie-up also shows that large groups are amenable to partnering with small players with niche capabilities, but who may not want to be in all segments of the value chain,” Gangal said.

DCE is also expected to play a key role in the national programme for MAVs, supported by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the department of science and technology.

“One of the challenges in any MAV development is the small motors which provide the propulsion,” said P.S. Krishnan, director of DRDO’s aeronautical development establishment (ADE) in Bangalore “DC Enterprises has been identified as the number one agency to provide such small motors.” ADE is the coordinating agency for the programme.

By Gary Mortimer

Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.