Thailand has invited private investors to join with state agencies to develop the country's first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project for its military. The Thailand Research Fund (TRF), in collaboration with the Defence Research and Development Office (DRDO) of the defence ministry, intends to research half-scale UAV technology for three years. A prototype has already been developed.
Recently, the artillery division of the Royal Thai Army placed orders for 10 UAV units. Two have been delivered and the rest would be handed over in October, Suteera Prasertsan, deputy director for the TRF, said. Locally made UAVs would save the artillery division around 600 million baht.
Two private companies, Siam UAV and Bangkok Airways, have entered discussions with the TRF and DRDO recently. But no company has been authorised to produce the UAVs. The TRF is requesting assistance from the National Science and Technology Development Agency to seek potential investors interested in commercial production of the units.
The TRF says that with an investment of 90 million baht, it could produce four UAVs. The cost of an indigenously produced UAV would be 10 times lower than imported ones. The project would also strengthen the negotiating power of the armed forces with foreign UAV suppliers, because they would no longer need to buy half-scale units.The TRF and DRDO expect to sell their UAVs domestically and internationally. Indonesia, for example, is a potential customer for half-scale UAVs that could be used for disaster control and relief. UAV development is a priority project of the Royal Thai Army for deployment in the troubled deep south provinces, where the country is facing an Islamic insurgency.