Over the past two years, drones or UAVs have been deployed regularly by Pakistan-based outfits to smuggle arms, ammunition, conducting aerial surveillance, and drugs into Indian territory. Recently, two explosive devices were dropped from a drone at the air force base in Jammu. This was the first known drone or UAV attack on an Indian military establishment.
In certain incidents, the small drones were also armed with explosive ordnance, to convert them into potentially lethal guided missiles. This demonstrates the growing sophistication in the field of UAVs.
Past UAVs threats:
Weaponised drones were first used by the Islamic State in northern Iraq in 2016 and then in Syria. After that, every terror outfit started using drones to create devastation. According to government figures, 167 drone sightings in 2019 and 77 in 2020 were recorded along the border with Pakistan. Significant ones include,
- In October 2020, the Army shot down one drone along the Line of Control in the Keran sector of J&K.
- In January 2021, the Jammu & Kashmir Police caught two persons while they were picking up a consignment of arms and ammunition smuggled via drones.
What are UAVs?
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an aircraft that carries no human pilot or passengers.
UAVs, sometimes called “drones” can be fully or partially autonomous but are more often controlled remotely by a human pilot.
Read more: Drone regulations and application of UAVs
Threats of using UAVs in attacks:
UAVs are generally called attackers delight and defender’s nightmare for the following reasons,
- UAVs have no restriction on the terrain nor the condition of the environment.
- Drones fly low and therefore cannot be detected by any radar system because they are small and do not have much radar cross-section.
- Difficult to detect also means difficult to engage as well.
- They do not match the cost of the kill vs the cost of the target. For example, killing the $1000 UAV with the Million $ sophisticated missile. So, the defender needs soft kill systems like LASER, Radio Frequency jamming and Electronic Jamming etc.
- Drone attacks cannot be ruled out even in the safest cities in the world.
- UAVs can be controlled from a remote distance and does not endanger any member of the attacking side.
- UAVs are easy-to-procure, easy-to-operate, and have a proven damage potential.
Ethical concerns of using UAVs to attacks:
There are certain ethical questions surrounding UAVs and their deployment in security operations. Such as,
- As the UAVs take over human operations on the battlefield, is the world ready to let the machine take over man?
- Can the machine be allowed to kill a man (Target)?
Government guidelines to counter rogue UAVs:
In 2019, following drone attacks on two major Saudi Arabian oil installations, the Indian government had expedited the process to come out with guidelines to counter rogue drones.
The civil aviation ministry formed a committee chaired by the Director-General of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). Based on the committee recommendation, the Civil Aviation Ministry issued the National Counter Rogue Drones Guidelines 2019. The salient points are,
- For places of critical national importance, the rules called for the deployment of a model that consists of primary and passive detection means like radar, radio frequency (RF) detectors, electro-optical and infrared cameras.
- In addition to this, soft kill and hard kill measures like RF jammers, GPS spoofers, lasers, and drone catching nets were also suggested to be installed.
- A steering committee chaired by a representative of the Indian Air Force and comprising representatives from NSG, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), etc. will be formed to ensure a coordinated approach.
Anti-drone jammers cannot be that effective in the border areas, but they can be deployed at security-sensitive installations to prevent such attacks in the future.
Note: The DGCA already has regulations in place for civilian drone operations. These include mandating the no-permission, no-takeoff (NPNT) regulations for drones that prescribe a built-in firewall, which prevents drones without the necessary permissions from taking off.