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Sansad TV: The Defenders- Drone Tech in Indian Armed Forces

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Use of drones in Warfare:

  • The drones already possess unprecedented reconnaissance capabilities and the ability to pinpoint a target.
  • The exploitation of weaponized drones and Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) are a well established warfare tactic as these have the capability to stealthily penetrate an enemy air space carrying onboard an explosive payload or missile.
  • A weaponized drone with an advanced navigation/control feature combined with an effective optical day/night sensor is a lethal weapon against enemy targets.
  • The use of drones in warfare has already effected changes in the Communication and Transmission Security policies.
  • The evolution of computation on the edge has already unfurled the Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications onboard the drones itself.
  • Overall, today the rapid evolution of swarms of drones technology coupled with AI tilts the scale.
  • With indigenisation push from Government, India today is on the right trajectory for future warfare, but the journey is not going to be easy.
  • Local manufacturing industry shall be playing a critical role here and the drone component manufacturing MSMEs hold the key to success.

Military Vs Commercial Drone Technology

  • There have been rapid sequence of steps by the government for the growth of indigenous drone industry.
  • This included the liberalised Drone Rules, 2021, Drone Airspace Map, Drone PLI scheme, National Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) policy framework, followed by 2022 Drone certification scheme and single window DigitalSky Platform.
  • In 2022, there was a ban on the import of drones primarily to boost the ‘Made-in-India’ initiative.
  • This included a ban on the popular Chinese DJI drones from the top drone maker globally.
  • However, certain exceptions were allowed in the rule allowing drone imports for R&D, defence and security purposes after necessary import clearances.
  • The import of drone components was allowed due to lack of availability of local drone components manufacturers for niche technologies.
  • The push for manufacturing of such niche components may be the next level for the indigenous drone industry.
  • Indian Armed Forces have been using foreign made military drones for over two decades now and are keen to induct secure and reliable indigenous drones.
  • The requirement to field military grade drone airframes and ruggedised Ground Controllers seemed to be well addressed by the Indian drone industry.
  • However, the Defence forces are also focussed on the indigenous embedded solutions like the drone Flight Controller meeting the MIL standards to effectively achieve self-reliance.

How drones became a tool of terror?

  • The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) in February 2021 published a report titled, The Role of Drones in Future Terrorist Attacks.
  • Earlier in 2013, Al-Qaeda attempted a terror attack using multiple drones in Pakistan without success. From 2016 on, the Islamic State made drone attacks a regular feature in its operations in Iraq and Syria.
  • The threat was so serious that in 2019, European Union Security Commissioner Julian King warned that European cities could be targeted by terror groups using drones.
  • The threat of drone attacks from the Pakistani side is very real.
  • Sighting of drones near India-Pakistan border and the Line of Control (LoC) has been frequent. Some of them have carried weapons to the Indian side.
  • In 2019, security personnel reported 167 sighting of drones from Pakistan, according to the official figures. In the pandemic hit 2020, there were 77 sightings.
  • In September 2019, the Punjab Police had seized a drone-dropped arms consignment to bust a terror module, which was receiving supplies from Pakistan. The seizure included AK-47 rifles and China-made pistols.
  • In January 2021, the Jammu and Kashmir Police caught two persons as they were picking up drone-dropped arms consignment

Issues with drones

It will be us humans who will decide whether we use drones for beneficial or malevolent ends.

  • National Security Issues:Drones have demonstrated the potentials for their threat to the security of a country. Drones are operated remotely and can strike where it wants it to strike. Raising serious security issues.
  • Terrorism:Drones have been used by various terrorist organisations like ISIS in Syria and Iraq to hit their targets.
  • Aviation safety: Drones flying too close to commercial aircraft has called for regulations.
  • Privacy: Drones have been used by the paparazzi to take the images of individuals breaching their privacy.