A Guide to DRDO || History, Achievements, and Responsibilities

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The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) is a Branch of Defense agency. DRDO, headquartered in New Delhi, was established in 1958 by combining the Defence Science Organization and a few facilities for technological development. DRDO is the main research organisation in India. It has a network of labs involved in the production of defensive technology spanning diverse areas, such as aeronautics, weapons, communications, engineering of ground warfare, life sciences, chemicals, missiles, and naval systems.

DRDO: Significance

The pursuit by DRDO of self-reliance and the effective growth and creation of strategic structures and platforms by indigenous people, such as:

  1. Agni and Prithvi series of missiles
  2. Light combat aircraft, Tejas 
  3. Multi-barrel rocket launcher, Pinaka
  4. Air Defence System, Akash
  5. A wide range of radars and electronic warfare systems

These also given India’s military strength with a quantum leap, creating powerful deterrence and providing critical leverage.

History of DRDO

Founded by the Government of India in 1958, it was established by integrating three major security organisations:

  • Defence Science Organisation (DSO)
  • Defence Technical Development Establishment (DTDE)
  • Directorate of Technical Development and Production (DTDP) 

The Indigo Project was the DRDO’s first major defence project with a project on Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM) in 1960. Without any success, this project was cancelled.

DRDO began in the country with only 10 different laboratories and now has more than 50 laboratories around the country researching in various sectors of technology and security.

DRDO’s first Indian military initiative was a surface-to-air missile (SAM) project known as Project Indigo. It achieved little popularity, however, and was then discontinued. DRDO has accomplished numerous achievements since its formation in the production of major systems and essential techniques such as aircraft avionics, UAVs, small arms, artillery systems, EW systems, tanks and armoured vehicles, sonar systems, missile systems and command and control systems.

DRDO developed India’s first anti-satellite programme in March 2019, which rendered India one of the space superpowers. It successfully tested the first indigenous heavy-duty drone, Rustom 2, in 2016, which is an unmanned armed combat vehicle based on the Predator drone lines of the United States. INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine, which became operational in 2018, was co-developed by DRDO. In the case of a crash in water, the self-ejectable black box for aircraft, BSAT, will help rescuers quickly find the wreckage. DRDO has also developed several ballistic missiles under its Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, which includes missiles like Prithvi, Trishul, Agni, Akash and Nag.

DRDO: Mission 

  1. It designs, develops and manufactures state-of-the-art Indian Defence Services sensors, weapons systems and other necessary equipment.
  2. It gives the Defence Forces both technical solutions and optimises the effectiveness of combat.
  3. It seeks to foster the well-being of India’s security powers.
  4. It builds India’s infrastructure and quality workers and creates a deep indigenous technology base.

Roles & Responsibilities

Promoting and supporting Indian companies with innovations developed by DRDO and expanding their technological capacities to become competitive globally.


  1. Industry Interface

DRDO has developed numerous systems, vehicles, products and technologies for military and spin-off applications in cooperation with 1800+ business partners. DIITM Interface to chambers of industry and industry for the development and commercialization of systems/technologies developed by DRDO.

  1. Technology Management

DIITM is the DRDO nodal agency for designing policy mechanisms and resolving all issues relating to technology transfer (ToT) and the issue of licences for systems and innovations developed by DRDO to industries both in India and abroad. DIITM is also involved in Limited Series Development (LSP), offset technology procurement and DDP interface concerning NoC for industry export applications. The same brief is given below:—

i. Transfer of Technology

The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is a defence R&D centre that designs systems/products necessary for the Indian Armed Forces to improve defence technologies. In the project model, DRDO advances defence technology. Furthermore, DRDO also undertakes/supports numerous inventions and goods established by Research Committees, the Technology Development Fund (TDF), Extramural Research and grant-in-aid schemes.

The technology is moved to Indian Factories to produce for development and supply whenever the device has been evaluated/ approved by the Armed Forces. DRDO provides the related ‘know-how’ to the industries during the transition of the technology to the Indian Industries in the form of Technology Transfer Document (TTD) and handholding assistance to absorb the technology. DRDO also allows companies the ability to incorporate value in addition to the base technologies. For companies, there is a qualitative distinction as they procure technology from international OEMs in which such value addition is usually forbidden at the end of the receiver. Both such modifications/enhancements occur at the end of the OEM and the industry is always forced to enter into a new licence arrangement for the value-added product.

Any of the defence innovations developed by DRDO also have strong potential and usefulness for civilian market applications. This invention is moved to the dual licencing sectors for the defence industry (MHA and other government organisations) and the industrial market. Thus, through self-reliance and industrial growth, ToT of DRDO systems/technologies to Indian Industries contributes to national production.

ii. Limited Series Production (LSP)

The LSP process aims to develop the product line and to address (if any) problems relating to the production of the DRDO commodity before bulk production. In comparison to an R&D initiative, which is an in-house operation sponsored by the R&D budget, it is time-bound that LSP is funded by the individual concerned. Co-opting business partners and moving technologies to those companies could be appropriate.

iii. Technology Acquisition through Offsets provision by DDP

DIITM manages all matters about DRDO’s procurement of technologies by way of offsets. Both applications for technology acquisition are submitted to the DIITM, DRDO HQ by the Technical Manager. The Technology Acquisition Committee assesses these proposals. The Committee advises the acquisition of technology depending on the feasibility of the plan, the consequences of the technology, the possibilities for the availability of the technology, the range and depth of the acquisition suggested, the country’s absorption potential, the state of the IP before and after the acquisition, along with the cost assessment of the technology.

iv. Export of Military Products

In the evaluation of applications obtained from Indian Companies demanding a No Objection Certificate (NoC) for exports of military goods to friendly countries, DRDO is one of the involved parties. DIITM carries out all the coordination and interfaces for ToT and customisation for the sale of military goods based on DRDO technology to meet the export requirements.

Achievements of DRDO

DRDO, the Defense Research & Development Agency, is responsible for planning, creating and manufacturing cutting-edge innovations that make our armed forces not only indomitable in the arena but also in the minds of our enemies.

  1. Integrated Guided-Missile Development Programme (IGMDP)

The Integrated Guided-Missile Production Program was one of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s main activities. In the field of missile technology, the purpose behind this breakthrough was to make Indian security powers self-sufficient.

After the Indian Government approved IGMDP in 1983, DRDO brought together the scientific community of the world, academic institutions, R&D labs, factories, and the three defence services to form the strategic, indigenous missile systems.

The IGMDP announced its successful completion after the launch of Agni-III in 2008 and proclaimed India to be a self-reliant nation in the field of missile technology.

  1. DRDO’s MARS

DRDO’s Pune-based R&DE Lab has built a smart, versatile robot to tackle land mines and inert explosive devices (IEDs) that will help the Indian Armed Forces, despite hostile conditions, disarm them from far distances. The Electro-Mechanical Systems Group of the R&DE Lab developed this robot, called the Mobile Autonomous Robot System (MARS).

Mobile Autonomous Robot System (MARS)

  • The computer can work on its own and has a mechanical system-guiding in-built application.
  • The alleged object that can then be moved to a predetermined location can be seen, detected and then picked up by MARS.
  • This machine can also be used to dig the earth for the object with some add-ons and defuse the Improvised Explosive Device by different means.
  • Until it treats it, MARS immediately produces a 3-dimensional representation of the object.
  • Scientists claim that it can assume many positions with fundamental mechanical additions and can adjust to any terrain in which to work.

Utility of MARS

  • At the International Field Exercise conducted in Pune, MARS was demonstrated and had Humanitarian Mine Action (MHA) as one of its focus areas.
  • Several countries have the issue of Explosive Remains of War (ERW) in South East Asia and MARS can be very helpful in those scenarios.
  • Several areas plagued by insurgency and terrorism, and regions affected by Left-Wing Populism, face the issue of IEDs in India. For special groups, national security authorities and the municipal police in these countries, MARS may be a valuable weapon.
  • Once a telecommunications infrastructure is built on it, MARS can be worked for very long distances.

The R&DE will transfer the technology of MARS to the industry for manufacturing.

DRDO Sets Up World’s Highest Terrestrial Centre in Ladakh

  • The DRDO centre in Ladakh is situated at Changla near Pangong Lake at 17,600 feet above sea level.
  • It is meant to act as a natural cold storage unit for natural and medicinal plant preservation.
  • The centre will also function as food, agriculture and biomedical science research unit for the support of soldiers stationed at high altitudes.
  • The centre has seen several events related to life sciences since its inauguration in 2018 by the Defense Institution of High Altitude Research (DIHAR).

Notable achievements

DRDO has been designing platforms that have greatly strengthened our battle capability. The DRDO has helped India attain few noteworthy milestones in this search of perfection, i.e.

  • Part of the four Multi-level Military Capabilities Counties.
  • Part of the 4 nations with the Airborne Warning & Control System (AEW&C).
  • Part of the five counties with our own Fourth plus Generation fighter planes.
  • Part of the 5 nations with its own Ballistic Missile Defense Policy.
  • One of the seven nations to have developed its own Main Battle Tank.

The need to improve our security sector takes on greater urgency as the global environment changes rapidly.

Challenges faced by DRDO

The major challenges faced by DRDO are briefly described below.

  • Budget Issues 
  • During 2016-17, the SCOD (Standing Committee on Defence) put out concerns relating to insufficient budgets faced by the existing DRDO programmes.
  • When the NDA government came into power and strengthened it, this was settled. Defence investment in 2018 was at its highest.
  • ISRO vs DRDO
  • There have been occasions when ISRO has shown that missions and projects like its Mars mission are successful at a lower cost than other Hollywood films.
  • In the other hand, DRDO’s bureaucratic administration and the Ministry of Defence’s inability to develop overtime left the part of advanced military and strategic relations expertise empty.
  • Because of this, relative to DRDO, ISRO is given greater government support.
  • Lack of Manpower
  • Insensitive regions, the DRDO still suffers from limited manpower and a lack of proper synergy with the armed forces.
  • The bulk of military installations are supplied, affecting the economy.
  • Instead of focusing on creative innovations and designing modern state-of-the-art technology, the company spends the most time refining previous technologies.

List of Missile Systems of India

Today, DRDO is a network of more than 50 laboratories actively active in the development of military technology spanning a broad variety of disciplines, including aeronautics, weapons, sensors, fighting equipment, engineering systems, instrumentation, missiles, advanced computing and simulation, special materials, naval systems, life sciences, training, information systems and agriculture. Several large programmes are underway to build missiles, armaments, light fighting aircraft, radars, electronic warfare systems, etc., and a range of those developments have already accomplished important milestones.

Missile System of India

Agni ISingle-stage, solid fuel, Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM).Using solid propulsion booster and a liquid propulsion upper stage.Range of 700-800 km.
Agni IIIntermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM).Range more than 2000 km.
Agni IIITwo-stage IRBMSupport a wide range of warhead configurations.Strike range of more than 2,500 Km
Agni IVTwo-stage missile powered by the solid propellant.Can fire from a road-mobile launcher.The range is more than 3,500 km.Equipped with indigenously developed ring laser gyro and composite rocket motor.
Agni VThree-stage solid-fueled, indigenous Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).Capable of carrying 1.5 tonnes of nuclear warheads.A latest and most advanced variant in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine.After induction in the military, India will join an exclusive club of countries like the US, Russia, China, France, and Britain which have intercontinental ballistic missile capability.Canister launches a missile system for operational flexibility.The range is more than 5,000 km.
TrishulShort-range, quick reaction, an all-weather surface-to-air missile designed to counter a low-level attack.Has necessary electronic counter-measures against all known aircraft jammers.
AkashMedium-range, a surface-to-air missile with multi-target engagement capability.Multiple warheads are capable.High-energy solid propellant and ram-rocket propulsion system.
NagThird-generation ‘fire-and-forget’ anti-tank missile with a range of 4-8km.Developed indigenously as an anti-armour weapon employing sensor fusion technologies for flight guidance.HELINA (Helicopter Launched NAG) is the air-to-surface version of the NAG integrated into Dhruv Helicopters.
PrithviFirst indigenously built ballistic missile under IGMDP.Surface-to-surface battlefield missile.Demonstrates higher lethal effects and high-level capability with field interchangeable warheads.Range from 150 km to 300 km.
BrahMosSupersonic cruise missile.Being developed with Russia as a private joint-venture.A multi-platform cruise can strike from various types of platforms.Among the world fastest supersonic cruise missiles with speeds ranging between Mach 2.5 – 2.8.A ‘fire and forget’ weapon i.e. requiring no further guidance from the control centre once the target has been assigned.
NirbhayThe subsonic missile, supplement to the BrahMos.Capable of being launched from multiple platforms on land, sea and air.A terrain hugging, stealth missile capable of delivering 24 different types of warheads depending on mission requirements.Can reach up to 1,000 km.
SagarikaSubmarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM)Being integrated with India’s nuclear powered Arihant-class submarine.Range – 700 km.
ShauryaA variant of the K-15 Sagarika.Submarine- nuclear-capable missile.Aims to enhance India’s second-strike capability.
DhanushSea-based, short-range, liquid-propellant ballistic missile.The naval version of Prithvi II.Maximum range 350 km.
AstraBeyond-visual-range air-to-air missile using a solid-propellant.In terms of size and weight, one of the smallest weapon developed by the DRDO.Active radar seeker to find targets.Electronic counter-measure capabilities.Designed to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speeds in the head-on mode at a range of 80 km.
PrahaarIndia’s latest surface-to-surface missile with a range of 150 km.The primary objective is to bridge the gap between the unguided Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher and the guided Prithvi missile variants.Have high manoeuvrability, acceleration and accuracy.

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