India's first private sector unit for manufacturing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to cater to both the Indian armed forces and the global market was formally launched at Adani Aerospace Park in Hyderabad on Friday.
Built jointly by the Adani Defence & Aerospace and Israel-based Elbit Systems with an initial investment of $15 million, the 50,000 sq ft facility will develop the Hermes 900 medium altitude long-endurance UAVs of Elbit.
The unit, formally inaugurated by Telangana's Home Minister Mohammad Mahmood Ali, will begin with the manufacture of complete carbon composite aerostructures for Hermes 900, followed by Hermes 480, catering to global markets.
Ashish Rajvanshi, Head Adani Defence and Aerospace, told reporters that till India finalises its order for 150 UAVs, the company will make fuselages for UAVs, which will be fitted with avionics in Israel before being delivered to customers in the global market.
After receiving orders from Indian defence forces, the facility will be ramped up for assembly and integration of complete UAVs.
"We will start with export market and as and when the country is ready we will supply to Indian armed forces," he said, adding a three-year order pipeline was in place.
The first product is expected to be rolled out in March-April, 2019. The unit will make four UAVs in the first year and this will be ramped up to 18 by 2020.
The plant, in which Adani has 51 per cent stake and Elbit 49 per cent, may see the investment doubling in the coming years depending on the requirements.
It is the first unit to come up at Adani Aerospace Park, the first defence and aerospace complex of Adani Group spread over 20 acre area at Hardware Park on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
Ashish said another joint venture with US-based Rave Gears coming at Park to make helicopter transmission gears will be operational by September 2019.
The gears will be made for both defence and commercial sectors, catering to requirements in India and the global market. The unit may see investment of $50 million to $150 million depending on the requirement, size and complexity of gears.
Adani, which in 2017 announced collaboration with Swedish firm Saab to compete for an order to supply fighter jets for the Indian Air Force, is developing another aerospace and defence cluster at over 100 acres at Mundra in Gujarat, where Adani Group has its largest industrial base.
He said they had six companies in their portfolio, including Alpha Designs, the JVs with Elbit and Rave Gears.
Bezhalel Machlis, President and Chief Executive Officer, Elbit Systems said they see big potential for UAV business in India. He said their partnership with Adani would bring advanced UAV technologies to the country.
Hermes 900 UAV can fly non-stop for 36 hours with a range of 1,000 km 30,000 feet above the sea level and carry 450 kg of payload. Elbit is already supplying it to more than 15 countries and also to the UN for its missions.
Machlis believes India could become third key market for their defence systems after the US and Israel. The company's global sales in 2017 were $3.6 billion and in 2019 it is expected to cross $4 billion.