Bangalore. 05 February 2021. Exicom Tech (I) LLP along with their System Integration partners has been partnering with Defence and Security Forces since over two decades. Sandeep Agarwal, CMD, Exicom Tech (India) LLP (SA) in an exclusive interview to Aviation & Defence Universe (ADU) informed, “ Smart surveillance through Tactical Video Streamers, UAVs, Unmanned Ground Vehicles and covert nano drones is a force multiplier and an enabler for local military commanders managing the LAC / LC. Setting up a permanent communication infrastructure covering the length and breath of LAC, that is not permanently manned is not a viable solution both financially and logistically. What is required is an infrastructureless communication network, that can be deployed instantaneously, is manpack / body worn.”
ADU. How do you see the events of last year like COVID Pandemic and Chinese intrusion along Line of Actual Control (LAC) effecting business models of SMEs like you?
SA. Both of these events have brought one aspect to the forefront. “Do Business as well as Border Management Smartly”. As such, I do not see a major shift in the way we were doing business pre- 2020. Our experience has been that Work From Home (WFH) enhanced efficiency in terms of more time devoted on business. However, the major impact was felt in Manufacturing, Research and Design (Experimentation and Proto-type testing), supply of raw material (components and modules) and proof of concepts of modern pathbreaking technology. Government’s priority spending on health care and food subsidies and livelihood substantially reduced the availability of funds for other businesses. With vaccination programme the pandemic will ease out. R&D and manufacturing will bounce back. Entrepreneurs will strike out a balance between their expenditure in IT and frontend contact retail. Having briefly outlined the business re-modelling let me focus on an important issue of smart warfare. Smart management of borders and defence are a sub set of smart warfare. In today’s modern world, if I am to summarise doing something smartly means Artificial Intelligence.
ADU. Where and how do you fit into Smart Action or AI?
SA. In 2004 Government of India set up a department of border management under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Various Central Para Military Forces, like BSF, SSB, ITBP, Assam rifles and Indian Coast Guards were responsible for managing the international Borders (IB) and Exclusive Economic Zones. Line of Control (LC) and Line of Actual Control (LAC), boundaries with Pakistan and China respectively are managed by Army. MHA had initiated two pilot projects for smart borders for IB. Indian Army too would be required to smartly manage LC and LAC. The dynamics of IB management and management of LC and LAC may be different in terms of implementation and procedures. However, the major concepts are largely similar. Like – Surveillance in depth, middle ground and foreground – Classification of entities picked up as potential threat (target) – Tracking of potential targets from depth areas into foreground – Engaging the target at the IB / LC/ LAC. India and China have entered into series of Border Defence Cooperation Agreements (BDCA). These impose restrictions on following/ tailing of patrols and lay down protocols to handle situations where the troops come face-to-face in disputed areas. Stand offs have been on the rise since 2008. The protocols involve banner drills, flag meetings and periodic meetings between local military leaders and up the hierarchy to government level. The current mechanism necessitates frequent patrolling of LAC. Patrolling of over 3000 KMs of LAC is manpower extensive and there is a high probability of delay in detecting intrusions. Smart surveillance through Tactical Video Streamers, UAVs, Unmanned Ground Vehicles and covert nano drones is a force multiplier and an enabler for local military commanders managing the LAC / LC. Setting up a permanent communication infrastructure covering the length and breath of LAC, that is not permanently manned is not a viable solution both financially and logistically. What is required is an infrastructureless communication network, that can be deployed instantaneously, is manpack / body worn so that BDCA is not violated yet has adequate bandwidth to meet the operational requirements of handling video, voice and data. To ensure covert surveillance by nano and mini drone their data/ control communications must have state of art Low Probability of Detection and Intercept (LPI/ LPD). We are the manufacturer of one of the worlds most advanced High Capacity, versatile infrastructureless communication system and Optoelectronic video streamer system. The system can operate in ground to ground or ground to air or air to air mode. The system’s operational versatility can be gauged from the fact that it is even suitable for SWARMing of Ground based or Aerial or water surface based unmanned / autonomous vehicles. The capacity is adequate to extend the Army / Private cloud into the battle field. Analysed data as also enhanced situational awareness can be made available in forward areas.
ADU. This is an interesting aspect. You are a company listed in Make in India and a member of Society of Indian Defence Manufacturer (SIDM). Do these systems qualify as Made in India?
SA. Yes, all our systems qualify for Make In India. We have entered into a manufacturing and technology partnership with Domo tactical Communications, UK. They are world leaders in High-capacity Mesh Mobile Adhoc Network (MANET) Software Defined Radio technology. We have brought State of the Art MANET technology into India. Our SDR programme has launched India into a niche MANET technology. Considering the experience & expertise of DTC in SDR and their SDR R&D programme, we found it more viable to partner with them in the core technology and the PCBA (PCB Assembly) and manufacture and customise it in our factory in Mumbai. We have a wide range of product staring from COFDM (Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) Tactical Video solutions, Mesh MANET SDRs, Data and Control links for USVs, Drones, Autonomous combat platforms, covert operation audio and video solutions and many more.
ADU. It seems that your COFDM family of radios are versatile. How do these fulfil the objective of Indian Armed Forces to have superior capability of fighting in the modern digital battle space?
SA. Indian Armed Forces have an elaborate SDR programme. Their main objective is to replace the existing digital Combat Net Radio with SDR having Mesh MANET capability. This will make the combat entities, including soldier, network enabled. The frequency ranges of these CNRs are in HF and VHF range (upto 512 MHz). We realised that the data capability of the mesh is just 1 or 2 Mbps and the mesh size is 16 to 32 nodes per mesh. At these shared Bandwidths the situational awareness will be in the form of basic maps and plots / white-boarding. In modern battle field, inputs from optoelectronic (OE) sensors like helmet mounted cameras, tactical drones, LORROS, HHTIs are gaining importance in the battle field. These require higher BWs that cannot be fully met by low-capacity mesh MANET. Considering these operational requirements, we are supplementing the BW with our Mesh MANETs with capacities of 80+ Mbps and mesh size of 140 nodes. You can gauge the quantum jump in infrastructure capacity in in the Tactical Battle Area. As is being done in western armies, High-capacity MANET is used as the core wireless network in the TBA and the edge can be a mix of low-capacity SDR and high-capacity edge MANETs. Our Mesh MANETs supplement the SDR based CNR where ever operationally required. Defence Forces in the west are utilising these SDRs for USVs, Autonomous Platforms like Main Battle tank of UK, combat engineer plants, mine-sweeping, Swarms, UAVs etc. The capacities even facilitate extension of internet like (www) services into the TBA. The Defence cloud can thus be excessed by the entities in TBA. The relevance is equivalent in all the three services. In fact, due to the Non Line of Sight (NLOS), Low Probability of Detection / Interception (LPI / LPD), US Army is considering incorporating this waveform into their L3Harris Radios for use in covert operations. These systems are very effective for our GHATAKs (Battalion Commando Platoons), SF and even sniper operations.
Some of the advanced features of the system, that make it stand apart and be a leader in Mesh MANET are Long ranges at low power (100 mW – 500 meters LOS and 200m NLOS), miniature size and weight (60 gms / 30 gms), almost no guard band between channels and Multi-Channel Modulation (hence higher BWs), Interference Avoidance System (automatically change frequency on detecting intentional / incidental interference – jamming), totally host less MANET and ASE 256 encrypted. All these Mesh features make it ideal for digital battle space over land, air or sea.
The snapshot of our system given below. EXICOM and Brij Systems can be visited in India Pavilion, Booth #1 in Aero India 2021.