From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 3- Drones, applications and security threats.
Increasing the use of drones in warfare and other areas has brought into focus the potential the use of drones hold and the other issues related to its misuse.
Recent events featuring 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.
A potential area of use of drones
- Military and Policing: Drones are largely used for military or policing purposes, but they also have other uses.
- Recreation and Sports: They are used for recreation and sports. The Chinese company DJI dominates this space.
- Logistics: Logistics is another use, with Amazon developing last-mile drone delivery.
- At scale, this delivery model can save money, energy and time.
- Domino’s extended this logic to deliver its first pizza by drone in New Zealand and is experimenting with scaling this model up in many markets.
- Botswana has had some successful trials where drones have delivered blood and life-saving drugs to villages out in the wilderness.
- Agriculture: A startup called Terraview uses drones with advanced image processing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality to increase the productivity of vineyards.
- A drone can be used to measure the amount of grain that’s piled up after harvest.
- Mining Output: Tata Steel has used drones quite effectively to measure mining output.
- Access the inaccessible places: Drones can go where people cannot.
- So, inspection and repair at remote wind farms on an island, or pipelines in the remote tundra, or equipment in a rainforest can be done more cheaply and precisely.
- Drone surveillance is now widely used by the insurance industry in the aftermath of floods or pest inspections.
- They can provide organizations a 360-degree view of the status of any construction project and its assets.
- Explosive detection and defusing: In many places, it is just safer to send a drone, such as while using explosives in deep mines or defusing suspected bombs.
- Wildlife protection and survey: drones are used to survey wildlife and detect poaching in the jungles of Africa.
Drones as commodity
- Drones will soon become a hardware commodity, much like personal computers.
- It will be the software loaded on it that will be the real force-multiplier.
- Industry 4.0 revolution: Business like “drones-as-a-service” will emerge, dramatically reducing the time taken for tasks and serving as a vital tool in the Industry 4.0 revolution.
A potent tool for Swarm-attack by military
- Perhaps the most fascinating developments will occur where drones originated, in
- Drones will mutate into swarms, where multiple, intelligent, small drones act as one vast network, much like a swarm of birds or locusts.
- Advanced militaries have drone swarms under trial that could revolutionize future conflicts.
- These swarms could overwhelm enemy sensors with sheer numbers and precisely target enemy soldiers and assets using data fed into them.
- They will be difficult to shoot down as there will be hundreds of small flying objects rather than one big ballistic missile.
- The swarm will use real-time ground data to organize itself and operate in concert to achieve its goal.
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 want 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.
Drones can indeed be a fantastic tool for good projects, from helping save the planet to identifying and nabbing criminals, and preventing the loss of human life. However, for that, we will have to change the DNA that they were born with, as lethal weapons of war. Otherwise, they will remain anonymous killers, wreaking death and destruction as they hover innocuously above.