A surveillance system developed by a little-known Bengaluru-based startup has come in handy for the Indian armed forces — that have traditionally used foreign-made weapons — to keep a check on intrusions by Chinese soldiers at the border.
The long-range observation system deployed by the Indian Army goes by the name T-Rex, doffing its hat to the famous carnivore from the Jurassic age, and has been designed in Koramangala, Bengaluru, by a startup named Tonbo Imaging. The advanced imaging solutions by Tonbo is one of the rare, notable ‘Make in India’ alternatives for India’s armed forces, which have historically relied on Russia, Israel and the United States for advanced weapons and self-defence systems. (Tonbo supplied the night- vision goggles that were fitted on the helmets of Indian soldiers during the famous Uri surgical strikes.)
T-Rex is a long-range surveillance system that can pick up movement day and night even at a range of 15 to 20 kilometres. It has night vision capabilities and GPS trackers that guide the defence forces towards potential incursions. T-Rex, which is powered by fuel cells, allows the army to develop unmanned stations, requiring soldiers to visit only for maintenance, thereby reducing the risks of danger.
“While our systems have been deployed in the Pakistan border in the past quite a few of them are now getting deployed in Ladakh, one of them is deployed at 18,000 feet,” said Arvind Lakshmikumar, founder, Tonbo Imaging.
India has traditionally relied on Israel for these surveillance systems, but now thanks to the Make in India push, Tonbo’s range of surveillance instruments has found a place in the Army’s cache of high-tech equipment. “The best thing about our products is that any small problem can be rectified in our Bengaluru centre directly, without having to be flown out of the country,” Lakshmikumar said.
Wide range of products
From helmet mounted night vision goggles for soldiers, thermal weapon sights for sniper rifles to solutions for aerial reconnaissance missions, Tonbo has an exhaustive inventory of products meant for the defence forces. These are designed in Bengaluru — India’s Silicon Valley — and manufactured across plants in Kochi and Mysuru.
In recent months, Tonbo has bagged multiple projects from the Indian Army. It has worked with the Northern Command, which secures the Kashmir Valley, to supply 3,000 night vision goggles for soldiers involved in anti-insurgency operations. It is also working with the country’s Eastern Command, headquartered in Kolkata.
The company is working on a project related to the C295 surveillance aircraft being procured by India from Airbus. It is also working on a project around the Arjun MKII battle tanks used by the country’s land forces.
Tonbo is also bidding for 21,000 night vision equipment for the Indian Army and working with defence PSUs to integrate the Spike missiles sourced from Israel.
Help From Self-Reliance Push
Tonbo Imaging was founded by Lakshmikumar, who holds a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in the United States. He returned to India in 2004 as the India head for Sarnoff Technologies, which was a subsidiary of Stanford Research.