[Sansad TV] Perspective: Keeping Drones in Check

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  • The potential use of drones in a terrorist incident or attack against a critical infrastructure and soft targets is a growing concern for law enforcement agencies worldwide.
  • India has also witnessed increased rogue drone activity along its Western border with Pakistan in the recent years with drones dropping weapons, ammunition and drugs.

Recent incidences of Drone Strikes

  • Drones have also been increasingly used in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria, by the US to carry out targeted assassinations.
  • Recently, many including two Indians were killed in Abu Dhabi in a drone attack claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
  • In 2020, Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, the most powerful figure in Iran after its supreme leader, was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq.

What are Drones?

  • In layman terminology, drones are unmanned flying machines that can be remotely controlled or fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems.
  • Section 2(h) of the new Draft Rules, 2021 defines drones as an aircraft without a pilot on board that can operate autonomously or can be operated remotely.

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, 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.
  • Cost effective: Drones are relatively cheaper in comparison to conventional weapons. Many open resources on DIY (do it yourselves) drones are available and thus can be easily assembled.
  • 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 defence 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 which dropped arms consignment, narcotic drugs 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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