he aerial intrusion by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as ‘drones’, over two strategically-located Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camps in south Bastar region of Chhattisgarh last month has once again brought to the fore the threat posed by rogue UAVs.
Maoists are suspected to have flown the drones over the CRPF camps to map the installations and identify vulnerabilities. This intrusion comes close on the heels of a series of intrusions by heavy-lifting UAVs sent from Pakistan into Punjab a couple of months ago.
Those UAVs had reportedly delivered rifles, ammunition, counterfeit currency and narcotics to receivers in Punjab. There have been intrusions by Pakistani drones into Rajasthan and Gujarat as well in the past.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has now issued orders to Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to shoot down such rogue drones. But, as the UAV intrusions in Bastar showed, aiming at or shooting down rogue drones is not always possible.
Thus, say security experts, a whole range of sophisticated technology is required to counter rogue UAVs.
There are an estimated 6 lakh rogue or unregistered and unregulated UAVs in India. Every single one of them, say security experts, is a potential hazard.
Why India Is Especially Vulnerable
India is a densely populated country where mass gatherings for social, religious, cultural and political events are commonplace. A drone attack on such a gathering, or a drone armed with explosives triggering the deadly payload over or on such a gathering can have catastrophic consequences.
Since a drone can be remote-controlled from anywhere within a 13 square kilometre area, it would be impossible to locate an operator of a rogue drone, especially from a densely populated area.
A number of highly-sophisticated systems need to be put in place to counter the grave threat posed by rogue UAVs. They are:
- Combined sensors using thermal cameras, acoustic sensors, optical cameras, radio-frequency scanners and spectrum analysers.
- Interdiction: there are four types of interdictions — protocol-based interdiction, sensor-based interdiction, interdiction using jammers and physical interdiction.
- GPS spoofing to take over a rogue or enemy drone’s communication system and fool it into landing safely at a secure zone.
- Laser guns to bring down drones.
- Air defence system comprising short-range surface-to-air missiles and machine guns to bring down enemy drones.
- Drone net: A large net is flown in a ‘good’ drone towards the rogue drone, which then gets entangled in the net and is brought down.
- Skywalls and Skyfences (read this).
Most importantly, the security agencies have to be trained to operate C-UAV systems effectively. The technology handicap that they suffer from now has to be addressed.
Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.