Q) The exponential proliferation of new technologies and Artificial Intelligence, vertically and horizontally, will make the task of combating terror even more challenging. In this context, elaborate upon the security threats emerging from drones and suggest some measures to counter hostile drones.
Why this question?
Important part of GS Paper-III.
Key demand of the Question
Explain the risks that emerge out of the usage of hostile drones and suggest measures to counter them.
Elaborate – Give a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms wherever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts.
Start by giving a context of the question.
In the first part, give an account of the challenges of using hostile drones by different countries. Mention about the recent drone attack in J&K.
In the next part, suggest solutions to overcome the challenges.
Conclude with a way forward.
A Drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. Besides combat use, drones are used for a range of purposes like package delivery, in agriculture (spraying pesticides etc), monitoring environmental changes, aerial photography, and during search and relief operations, among others. India has an estimated over 6 lakh rogue or unregulated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Recent events featuring drones
- Recently, Drones were used for the first time to drop explosive devices, triggering blasts inside the Air Force Station’s technical area in Jammu.
- Recently, the BSF detected weapons dropped by a suspected Pakistan drone in Jammu. One AK-47 assault rifle, one pistol, one magazine, and 15 rounds for a 9 mm weapon were recovered 250 m inside Indian territory.
- On June 20 last year, the BSF shot down a drone in Hiranagar, Jammu. The hexacopter’s payload included a US-made M4 semi-automatic carbine, two magazines, 60 rounds and seven Chinese grenades.
- Sources said in recent years there have been an estimated 100-150 sightings of suspected drones near India’s western border annually. Most of these are suspected to be surveillance drones.
- A drone was used by the U.S. to fire the missile at Qassem Soleimani to assassinate him.
- A few days before that, less-lethal drones monitored crowds of student protesters rocking India.
Security threats posed by drones:
- National Security Issues: Drones have demonstrated the potential for their threat to the security of a country. Drones are operated remotely and can strike where it wants 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.
- Conflict Zones: Drones are becoming security threats particularly in conflict zones where non-state actors are active and have easy access to the technology. For example: 2019 twin drone attacks on Aramco crude oil production in Saudi Arabia.
- Potential weapons of mass destruction: What makes combat drones in the hands of non-state actors most dangerous is the threat of them being used to deliver weapons of mass destruction.
- Aviation safety: Drones flying too close to commercial aircraft have called for regulations.
- Privacy: Drones have been used by the paparazzi to take the images of individuals breaching their privacy.
- Critical infrastructure: unregulated drones, UAVs and remotely-piloted aircraft system are a “potential threat” to vital installations, sensitive locations and specific events
- Cross border smuggling: Over the past two years, drones have been deployed regularly by Pakistan-based outfits to smuggle arms, ammunition and drugs into Indian territory. Drones fly low and therefore cannot be detected by any radar system.
- Security agencies should work on developing more modern anti-drone weapons like ‘sky fence’ and ‘drone gun’ to counter terror or similar sabotage bids by these aerial platforms.
- The Tokyo police have been using ‘flying nets’ attached to legal drones to capture and neutralise rogue UAVs. The Taiwanese police have been testing RF jammer guns to bring down rogue drones.
- The other anti-drone technology is through geofencing agreements with commercial drone manufacturers, a technique that will prevent UAVs from flying near critical infrastructure by pre-programmed codes put in by manufacturers.
- India needs to invest more in counter-drone research and technology and procure them in a planned manner to address the security concerns arising from rogue operations of the unmanned aerial vehicles.
- There is a need to develop partnerships between counter-drone companies and public sector units (PSUs), government organisations like Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and other private organisations.
- The Ministry of Civil Aviation could potentially look at making the existing regulations for unmanned aircraft systems more stringent.
- The answer to the emerging threat of rogue drones, though serious, is not over-regulation but smart regulation, creating a balance between the evolving drone sector and the emerging security concerns.
- This needs to be done with investing in cutting-edge technologies for countering drones and indigenous R&D, with the support of government grants besides private investments.
- ‘National Counter Rogue Drone Guidelines’ is a step in the right direction outlining ‘procedural means’ of prevention, deterrence and denial and ‘active means’ of detection, interruption and destruction. This must be coupled with ‘Counter Rogue Drone Deployment Plan’ based on vulnerability analysis
Regulation on use of drones in India should be effectively implemented to foster technology and innovation in the development of drones and improve the ease of doing business, by side-lining unnecessary requirements and creating a single-window process. The government should ensure protection of privacy of citizens by limiting the use of drones for surveillance. It is important to use drones responsibly to minimize negative impacts on wildlife, including birds. Possibilities of drone-related accidents should be minimized by strict enforcement of regulations.