[Sansad TV] Drones in Defence Sector


In this edition of ‘The Defenders” experts discuss the importance of drones in the Indian defence sector, Indian drone policy and its implications.


  • As the role of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) continues to grow in all sectors of society, new applications for drones in security and defence continue to emerge.
  • While the possibilities presented by drones in the theatre of war have already been explored, more research is now being undertaken into their potential for improving security.

What are Drones?

  • Drones, also known as UAVs are aircraft that are flown without a human pilot on board.
  • They can be controlled remotely by a human operator or can be programmed to fly autonomously using onboard computers and sensors.
  • Drones come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from small, hand-held models to larger, more complex aircraft capable of carrying payloads such as cameras, sensors, and weapons.
  • They can be powered by various sources, including electricity, gas, or other fuels, depending on their size and purpose.

What are the types of Military Drones?


There are a few different types of drones used in militaries around the world:

  1. Fixed-wing: They are the fastest military UAV currently deployed worldwide. These drones are designed to take off and land like aeroplanes, using wings instead of rotors for lift.
  2. Single-rotor: They look similar to helicopters and are more durable than other drones. While they can be more efficient than different types of drones, they require more maintenance.
  3. Multirotor: These drones are the most straightforward option that provides the best control over positioning and framing. Because of this, they are the best choice for surveillance and reconnaissance.

How are Drones changing military warfare?

Drones have improved military capabilities around the world in many ways. It will also continue to change military warfare through the following:

  • Better Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA): Drones provide real-time information on targets’ positions, terrain, and enemy movements to commanders on the ground.
  • Reduced Cost: Drones are cheaper than conventional aircraft in terms of both price and maintenance.
  • Crew safety: Because drones are unmanned, they also reduce the risk of pilots being injured mid-flight.
  • Faster deployment: Compared to conventional aircraft, drones are faster and easier to deploy. They are easier to operate and don’t need training as extensive as most aircraft. Many drones don’t need a runway, and other types can easily fit in a backpack.
  • Increased flexibility: While the military-industrial complex has developed technology that prioritizes this need, drones are the best example. On top of this, drones can even be fully automated.
  • Improved Situational Awareness: Drones can provide military commanders with real-time video and other intelligence data, giving them a better understanding of the battlefield and enemy movements.

Combat importance of drones

As a result, more military forces are looking to use drones to increase their combat and surveillance capacity. These are the most common roles UAVs fulfil:

  • Reconnaissance: Drones can conduct surveillance missions by hovering over an area for an extended period.
  • Command and Control: Drones can relay crucial information on enemy movements, locations, and positions of strategic targets. This information allows commanders to be more efficient and make better decisions when in the field.
  • Combat and Combat Support: Unmanned vehicles play a huge role in performing combat and combat support missions. Built-in targeting software allows operators to hit their targets with greater precision and accuracy.
  • Targeted strikes: UAVs can be used for target practice or for training exercises by operators to improve their accuracy. Drones’ built-in targeting software is customizable to detect and respond to targets automatically.
  • Logistics:  Drones can be used as military-industrial couriers and assist in delivering valuable supplies and equipment. They can also help evacuate injured personnel.
  • Search and Rescue: Drones can be equipped with thermal imaging cameras and other sensors to aid in search and rescue operations, helping to locate lost or injured personnel.
  • Drones as Target Decoys: There are times when a defense strategy may require using drones as target decoys to mislead its opponents and launch an attack from another direction.

Drone regulation in India

These rules are built on the premise of trust, self-certification, and non-intrusive monitoring. The policy is designed to usher in an era of super-normal growth while balancing safety and security considerations.


Significant applications of Drone Technology

Drones are a transformative technology. They have been and can be used in various areas such as:

  • Land mapping: The drone technology in the SVAMITVA scheme has helped about half a million village residents to get their property cards by mapping out the areas.
  • Emergency response: Drones are significant for the agencies such as the fire and emergency services wherever human intervention is not safe. It can perfectly save human efforts during disaster management.
  • Distant and remote delivery purposes: Recently, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has approved a project with the Telangana government for using drone technology to deliver vaccines in remote areas.
  • Agriculture: In the agriculture sector, micronutrients, and hazardous pesticides can be spread with the help of drones. It can also be used for performing surveys for identifying the challenges faced by the farmers.
  • E- Commerce: Drones offer a perfect and cost-effective solution for delivery of products by e-com facilitators.
  • Monitoring: The railways are using drones for track monitoring. Telecom companies are using drones for monitoring the tower.
  • Security and defence: Drone system can be used as a symmetric weapon against terrorist attacks. They can be integrated into the national airspace system.

Threats posed by Drones


The operation of drones without any adequate legal backing can pose several security threats.

  • Espionage: Drones can be stealthily used for spying purposes.
  • Terror sponsoring: Procurement of combat drones by non-state actors poses serious threats.
  • Stealth in warfare: Drones can easily escape security checks due to its compact size.
  • Easy available weapons: Given the easy availability of advanced technology to the common man at a reduced cost and the proliferation of information via the Internet, this threat will invariably grow.
  • Destruction of security apparatus: They can be put to destructive use, to slam into critical targets, destroy infrastructure and so on.
  • Smuggling of arms: Incidents of arms being dropped by drones are also there such as the recent Jammu drone attacks.

Why are drones such stealthy?

  • Radar complicacies: Conventional air defense systems are less effective against drones and military radars are designed to track larger, fast-moving aircraft and cannot always pick up small, slow, low-flying drones.
  • Feasibility of securitization: It is not cost effective to use expensive anti-aircraft systems to shoot down these drones, which are typically cheap and can be easily devised.
  • Eyespoting not possible every time: Currently, border forces in India largely use eyesight to spot drones and then shoot them down. Drones can be easily disguised as bird or any other un-identified flying object.

India’s vulnerability: Terror sponsoring neighborhood

  • India is always subjected to continuous threats of cross-border terrorism, drug trafficking and arms trafficking from Pakistan. 
  • Sighting of drones near the India-Pakistan border and the Line of Control has been frequent these days. 
  • We often get to hear news about Punjab Police seizing drones that dropped arms consignment, and narcotic drug supplies from Pakistan.
  • There were many drone-dropped arms consignments seized by the Indian police and security forces.

Way forward

  • As technology advances, security architects and countries have taken cognizance of this fact and are working on the technological as well as policy fronts to counter it.
  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a detect-and-destroy technology for drones, but it is not yet into mass production.
  • GPS technology can be imbibed and be inbuilt in drones so that they cannot enter in non flying area.
  • For installations such as oil refineries, power stations or military station a ‘mid segment model’ that includes primary and passive detection and soft kill options can be adopted.


  • Modern drones, in the hands of terrorists, could cause considerable panic and damage if not countered adequately.
  • Though drones pose a sub-tactical threat, it requires a strategic response. Entire threat perception has to be relooked.
  • It is essential to ensure that the security measures are set up in time so as to avoid any untoward occurrence or a major catastrophe.

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