Need to invest more in research, tech to counter rogue drone ops: DFI

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New Delhi, Jun 28 (PTI) 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 the unmanned aerial vehicles, said a senior official of the Drone Federation of India (DFI) on Monday.

His comments come in the wake of the attack in which drones dropped two bombs at the IAF station at Jammu airport, injuring two air force personnel.

Alert Army troops on Monday fired at two drones found hovering over the Ratnuchak-Kaluchak military areas in Jammu.

Smit Shah, Director - Partnerships, Drone Federation of India (DFI) said no amount of strict regulations can address the security concerns from rogue drones. 'A person, if he or she wants to assemble a drone and fly it in any part of the country, has the physical capability to do so. To address this challenge (of rogue drones), we need to invest more counter-drone research and technology and build capacity in the same domain,' he told PTI.

India has few companies doing indigenous research and a few companies partnering with foreign vendors but more focus need to be brought in this domain, he mentioned.

Counter-drone technology uses radars, radio-frequency devices, electro-optical methods, acoustic mechanisms or combined sensors technology to the unmanned aerial vehicles.

Shah said the existing laws of the country should primarily ensure that materials that can be used for causing harm and destruction should be tracked adequately and should not fall in the hands of people for whom it is not intended.

The DFI is an industry body that has companies like Asteria Aerospace, Quidich Innovation Labs, AutoMicroUAS, Aarav Unmanned Systems and Indrones as its members.

Shah said the government should take at least three steps to boost indigenous research and technology in counter-drone domain -- first is planned procurement approach that explains how much and how soon are those counter-drones needed.

'Second is the 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 third step is to support these initiatives with focused funding programs,' he said.

In October 2019, the Civil Aviation ministry had issued a policy document primarily to deal with possible security challenges from rogue drones to key installations like nuclear power plants and military bases.

Titled 'National Counter Rogue Drones Guidelines', the document said it was a matter of concern that small drones were proliferating at a rate that has alarmed battlefield commanders and planners alike.

'The utilisation of armed drones by extremist groups to carry out reconnaissance and targeting strategic Israeli installations during Israel-Lebanon war is an example of escalation of terrorist and insurgent drone capabilities,' according to the document.

The policy document said multiple incidents of sightings of drones in the vicinity of commercial airliners and major airports like New Delhi and Mumbai have raised flight safety concerns.

'Further, the upsurge in drone use has also increased the threat quotient for VVIPs who can be targeted through the rogue drones,' it said.

There is no official data about the number of civilian drones operating in India. However, it is estimated that there are about 4-6 lakh drones in the country. A significant number of parts -- which are used in manufacturing drones -- are imported from China and many other countries. Shah said indigenous production of drones is important from a defence capability building perspective. 'To boost indigenous production of drones, the government needs to have liberalised drone policy wherein lesser number of permissions are needed to manufacture or operate drones,' he said. Moreover, the government has to create funding programs and streamline its drone procurement mechanism to boost their indigenous production in the country, he said.

Indian aviation regulator DGCA issued Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021, in March this year. These rules enforce the NPNT (no permission no takeoff) scheme that requires an operator to take permission from DGCA, using an app, before each drone flight. If this permission is not received, the drone itself will not function. PTI DSP TDS TDS

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