The Centre accelerated the hunt for anti-drone technologies to detect, identify and mitigate the threat of rogue drones even before two such devices, in a first-of-its-kind attack, carried out explosions at the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) station in Jammu last month, people aware of the developments said on Monday.
The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), a federal police think tank, has formulated detailed specifications and guidelines for anti-drone technologies and submitted them to the ministry of home affairs (MHA), the people quote above said.
Details accessed by HT reveal that BPRD, since 2019, consulted various stakeholders, including Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), National Security Guard (NSG), Airports Authority of India (AAI), Indian Air Force (IAF), ECIL (Electronics Corporation of India Ltd), BEL (Bharat Electronics Ltd), BCAS (Bureau of Civil Aviation Security), IIT Kanpur, and private companies, among others, to discuss the menace of rogue drones before preparing a comprehensive draft on anti-drone policy.
The suggestions made by BPRD are currently being considered by the government for implementation after finding the right technology, for which trials have taken place on various occasions, an official said, without elaborating on the exact dates. He added: “The entire process is currently in advanced stages.”
Among the issues covered by BPRD are the threat posed by unregulated/rogue drones, including attack on critical structures such as oil, gas, military and space establishments and airports, apart from targeted assassinations; declaring particular areas as no-drone zones; training personnel in handling anti-drone systems and collaborating with the private sector for harnessing the technology.
The bureau is currently also evaluating a proposal for the establishment of Centre of Excellence for Drones and Counter Drones at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, under the aegis of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), the official quoted above said on condition of anonymity.
Another official, who asked not to be named, said 30-35 drones from across the border are spotted every month – some are fired at by the BSF while some manage to pass through as they go unnoticed, which is a serious problem. As seen in the Jammu attack, these drones, mostly made in China, manage to fly 10-14km within the Indian territory from Pakistan to drop arms, drugs and explosives.
Apart from using technologies involving radar, radio frequency, thermal detection and audio detection, security experts are also exploring other methods.
“There has to be a mix of technological and conventional on-ground methods to deal with rogue drones and it has to happen fast,” said the second officer.
In its annual internal book last year, BSF also spoke about some other methods to deal with unfriendly incoming drones. For example, security agencies can explore using counter-drone drones which engage the enemy devices on one-to-one basis and try to overpower/crash them. The use of high-powered laser beams, capable of destroying drones from a distance, possibility of using nets for the rogue drones, training eagles to intercept enemy drones and firing projectiles at them were also mentioned.
For the use of drones by citizens and private companies, India already has a policy in place which says no unmanned aircraft system can be used unless it is registered by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The rule came into effect in March this year through a gazette notification.
According to the March notification, the Centre has also sought to establish Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management system in the Indian airspace.
Sameer Patil, fellow at the International Security Studies Programme at Gateway House, said: “The drone attack in Jammu and previous sabotage incidents in other parts of the world illustrate the risks posed by technological advancements (armed drones, swarming drones, lethal autonomous weapons systems) and rapid proliferation of this technology in the hands of rogue state and non-state actors. Our adversaries – China and Pakistan – have developed, procured and already deployed armed drones. Meanwhile, international rules for countering the drone warfare are still being developed. Therefore, in the interim, India must strengthen its defences by deploying anti-drone systems. Time is of essence when it comes to building counter-capabilities vis-à-vis drones.”