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Overcoming India's Drone Dilemma

Updated: Jan 9

India's security community is actively engaged in finding solutions to drones which are continuing to operate from across the International Border in Jammu in the short term. There are options to overcome the dilemma by adopting a comprehensive approach and not just technology orientation.

Targeting of the Jammu airfield by drones dropping explosives on the night of June 26/27 and reports of a number of flying objects intercepted and forced to turn back in the same belt has raised the spectre of a new run of threats to security in the sensitive border zone and beyond.

The employment of armed drones some amateur for sabotage have been well recorded from the Houthis of Yemen targeting Saudi oil refineries to the United States assassination of the Iranian Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soliemani on January 03 last year.

In the regional security spectrum, drones with explosives have been used by the Taliban but not very frequently, whereas surveillance and weapons dropping has been well recorded in the recent past by Pakistan. Left Wing Extremists have also been using rudimentary drones for surveillance in India.

Post the Jammu air base drone IED drop there is a flurry of discussions on countering drones. There is a fair degree of despondency observed with a sense that the threat is omni potent and thus cannot be met effectively due to proliferation of drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles which is largely untrue. Another part of the debate is focused on technology solutions to counter drones.

Managing a threat in the security sphere requires a comprehensive approach rather than focusing only on technology.

Some of the essential facets of such a all-inclusive approach related to countering drones are as given below.

Firstly, regulations and enforcement on operation of drones in India will have to be stringently followed. This may now even be extended to small drones such as the ones used in Jammu provided these can be effectively implemented. Implementation of regulations requires to be strictly enforced.

Secondly drone operators will have to be cleared from the security point of view and stringent verification norms have to be established of companies operating drones as well as the operators.

Thirdly drone manufacturers and sellers have to maintain a record of the sales including the buyers just as in the case of vehicles.

Thus tracking will be possible, how this can be applied to the amateur toy drones needs greater deliberation.

The aim should be to be able to deny possibility of malign use of drones by terrorists and miscreants for all purposes.

Fourthly given the possibility of use of drones by the adversary as well as dissidents within the country there is a necessity for evolving counter drone SOPs and drills for all vital security establishments in the country such as air, naval and army bases.

These regulations should be promulgated through local authorities establishing no fly zones and treating any activity there in as hostile. Establishment of drone sentries will now be routine in vital areas and points.

Fifthly counter drone solutions have to be integrated in these as a variety of technology options are available for detection, identification and neutralisation.

For detection radio frequency (RF) acoustic, optical and radars are available while for identification and neutralisation RF jammers, GPS spoofers, high power microwave and lasers are seen as some of the options. In the long term, investment in these technologies has become a sine qua nan.

The kinetic kill though a crude one will be one of last resort.

Thus, countering drones is operationally feasible by undertaking comprehensive measures by regulating usage, maintaining stringent controls on drone operators through listing, evolving SOPs for defence from a drone attack of vital, installations with use of technology that is available off the shelf immediately and to be developed on the go.

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