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CDS asks military, DRDO to work with startups to get cutting-edge space tech to reduce gap with adversaries

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In an effort to boost collaboration between the Indian space and defence sectors, Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan today asked the three defence forces and DRDO to engage with the Space industry and startups to develop cutting-edge technology to reduce the gap with the adversaries.

In his virtual address, General Chauhan said, “I will call upon DRDO to deeply engage with the Indian startup community in partnership with the Indian space industry to develop cutting-edge solutions that would help reduce our technology gap vis-a-vis our adversaries.”

General Chauhan said that there is a need to develop and update our requisite doctrines to ensure that space and cyber elements are deeply integrated at strategic, operational and tactical levels. Dwelling on the scope of business for the space industry, he said, “I can say that there is enough space for everyone to grow.”

“I wish all the startups in the space domain would graduate to become unicorns and then flourish as global partners in the times to come,” he added.

The Chief of Defence Staff was speaking at the Indian Defence Space Symposium 2024, where the inaugural event included Chief Guest Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff, Indian Navy, Guest of Honour Samir V Kamat, Chairman, DRDO and various other dignitaries from across the ministries, defence and space industries.

The first day of the event witnessed various sessions and panel discussions with experts from the defence, space sector to deliberate on a wide range of topics like challenges in the sectors, China’s defence space capability, etc.Addressing the inaugural session, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral R. Hari Kumar, said, “It is in our aspiration to be AtmaNirbhar and I see the biggest congruence of and convergence in action between space and the sea. The Bhartiya Nausena has resolved to be a fully Atmanirbhar force by 2047 and we actively seek the support of our partners in the space industry in our relentless pursuit of the same. In the vast expanses of the maritime domain, satellite connectivity provides us with reliable and secure communication, even in the most remote expanses of our areas of operation. High-bandwidth SATCOM links facilitate real-time voice, data and video transmission, ensuring seamless command, control, communication and coordination across diverse theatres of operation as we strive to ensure safe, secure and stable seas for all.””Space technology has indeed emerged as the key enabler for bolstering maritime security through real-time and responsive maritime domain awareness, offering invaluable insight into movement, vessel tracking, illegal fishing detection, disaster management and environmental protection. Looking ahead, synergy with several space agencies and industries and initiatives like IDEX promised further advancements that encourage innovation and self-reliance by pooling resources across academia, industry and startups,” General Chauhan said.

“I would encourage the space sector, MSMEs and start-ups to borrow a leaf from our successful initiatives in indigenization. And similar to the innovations in the space sector through IDEX, Bhartiya Nausena, with the aim of forwarding the technology curve, has been working alongside MSMEs, start-ups, academia, students, innovators and dreamers through our three-tier organisation, the Naval Innovation and Indigenization Organisation (NIIO). By fostering collaboration and embracing emerging technologies, together we can unlock new frontiers of exploration while ensuring the safety, security and prosperity of our great nation,” he added.

Samir V Kamat, Chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), speaking at the inaugural day, said, “Space situational awareness, space-based surveillance, and launch on demand capability are some areas where we need to develop capabilities further, these are critical areas. And we can do this if we all work together. It is indeed a very good sign, that all of us are taking space and defence collaboration seriously. This is one area that is now going to be a key focus area. We are willing to work with startups and industry and we are also willing to fund R&D in this area. IDEX already has 75 challenges, but we also have another mechanism called the Technology Development Fund, where we can fund up to 50 crore. If there are any good projects where any start-ups or MSMEs are present today and if you have any good proposals, you can approach us.”

Lieutenant General AK Bhatt, DG of the Indian Space Association, emphasised in his vote of thanks the need to focus on discussions around DefSpace challenges to take it forward and to get an outcome for the users, i.e., the services. He also informed the audience about the recent launch of the Earth observation satellite by TASL, a one-to-one model of which was also available in the exhibition. The DG also informed the audience of Euroconsult’s study on the social impact of space initiated by ISRO.

The ongoing symposium is focusing on creating a platform for all stakeholders who have a keen interest in boosting India’s military space capability and plans. The platform brings together experts from multiple domains to discuss the latest trends and challenges in the field of defence space, making it an excellent networking opportunity for attendees from the defence, DRDO, and government sectors, as well as industry professionals, to collaborate.

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