Adv. Siddharth Acharya & Simarjeet Singh Satia,
From Siddharth Acharya & Associates
Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval held a meeting on Tuesday (29.06.2021) and discussed “futuristic challenges” in the defence and drone sector after the first ever drone attack using IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device) on any defence establishment in India happened within the gap of five minutes on early hours of Sunday (27.06.2021) at Indian Air Force Station, Jammu.
National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken over the probe in this matter. On initial assessment reports it has been found that low-flying drones were used to drop explosives at the air base to avoid being detected by radar and that since drones could not be detected by radars deployed at border areas to monitor enemy activity, it has been suggested that a different radar system that can detect drones as small as a bird be installed.The drones dropped the explosive material and were either flown back across the border, since the aerial distance from the Jammu airport to the international border is 14 km, or to some other destination during the night, the officials said.
With India being technologically and in the matters of defence ranked in Top 5 always, still has not found the answer to the capability of drones to evade radar, wreak devastation at strategic installations and transport weapons to terrorists and it has been a continuous concern for the country’s security establishment. While terrorists have started using drones to carry out attacks and even drop of arms and ammunition, the drones are also utilised forspraying of insecticides over a field, photography and installing sensor in the deep jungles. The government had regulated the use of drones under the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules 2021, through this Article we will discuss the laws related to drone at hand and what all changes can be made to tackle the modern-age challenges.
Unmanned Aircraft System Rules 2021:
In June 2020, the Ministry of Civil Aviation released the draft Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Rules 2020 (UAS Rules or Rules). After allowing foralmost 10 months for consultations and comments with stakeholders, the governmentfinally in March 2021, notified the UAS Rules of 2021. These Rules of 2021 replace the Civil Aviation Requires (CAR) on Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) which have regulated the space since 2018. The UAS Rules have brought in several changes compared to the CAR on RPAS but the major highlights being-
- According to Rule 2(x) “Drone” means unmanned aircraft and is governed by UAS Rules, 2021
- No Permission- No Take-off (NPNT) policy adopted for all Unmanned Aircrafts except for those in the nano category
- All UAS including nano category, are required to be equipped with Global Navigation Satellite System, Autonomous Flight Termination System or Return to Home option, geo-fencing capability and flight controller, among others.
- UAS prohibited from flying in strategic and sensitive location, including near airports, defence airports, border areas, military installations/facilities and areas earmarked as strategic locations/vital installations by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Definition of Geo-fencing has also been introduced as the restriction of movement of UAS within a defined virtual space for a real-world geographic location using the global positioning system or radio frequency identification to define three dimensional geographical boundaries.
All of the UAS Rules of 2021 work for commercial and civil use of unmanned aircraft systems, but something for the defence and strategic purpose in India is required to bridge the gap between the technological ages so that rogue drones can be taken down through anti-drone policies. Protecting personnel and civilian/military infrastructure from drone threats is increasing drastically. Governments and law-enforcement agencies across the country need to be able to look into the sky, see a drone and instantly know whether it is supposed to be there or not.
Potential Solutions or Anti-Drone Machines Used by other Countries
There is a need for effective and efficient Counter-UAS (C-UAS) systems to be brought into operation. The C-UAS primarily follows a two-legged approach — detect and defend. For detection, there could be various types of tools created around radar, radio-frequency,combined sensors, acoustics, etc. Once the UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) is detected, the area needs to be defended through measures like communication protocol, sensors, jamming the radio frequency, and physically through drone nets, firing, etc.
Taking the example of Tokyo, where police have been using ‘flying nets’ attached to legal drones to detect, capture and neutralise rogue UAS. The Taiwanese police whereas have been testing jammer guns to bring down rogue and potentially dangerous drones.
The US Special Forces, the US Department of Defense and the Israel’s Ministry of Defense have come together on developing a system that would neutralise threats from not so high above the sky. The result of such a collaboration was the “Skylord system, also known as Sparrowhawk”. The Skylord system mobile C-UAS inspection and interception system allows close examination of threats in the air ranging from terrorist drones to other malicious aerial threats.
In United States, the research wing of the Pentagon demonstrated a Counter-Unmanned Air System (c-UAS) multilayer defence architecture, known as the Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program, it can counter hostile drone intrusions very effectively and quickly. This system is equipped with X band radar to destroy the hostile drones, and with its advanced radar senses, identifies unmanned aerial system threats rapidly.
Looking at the example of Russia, where they have developed a helicopter drone to counter hostile UAS. The Russian news agency RIA Novosti was told by the Russian military-defence complex that the new drone would “track down small and low-speed enemy drones at low and extremely low altitudes”.
Drones are beneficial in a whole range of areas such as healthcare, emergency services, agriculture, security and surveillance, logistics, and defence but not all the drones. Therefore, detection of rogue drones should be led to finding the persons operating it and penalising them. A robust system to ensure maximum safety is necessary. The answer to the ever-increasing threats of rogue UAS, though serious, is by creating a balance between the evolving drone sector and the emerging security concerns. This can only be achieved by procuring cutting-edge technologies for countering drones and with the help of indigenous R&D, along with the constant support of government grants besides private investments. More efficient Anti-drone machines should be built with the help of DRDO and other agencies in India and across the world and the no flying zones should be properly protected with strong and robust radars.
Where does India stand on anti-drone infrastructure?
In India, although the DRDO-made anti-drone machine system “D4” was first deployed during Republic Day Parade (26th of January) last year, it is still to be employed in a better way and it is actually a matter of concern.This system by DRDO can bring down micro rogue drones through either jamming of command-and-control links or by damaging the drones through laser-based Directed Energy Weapon (DEW).
In December 2020, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was demonstrated two innovative anti-drone technologies by DRDO Young Scientists’ Laboratory – Asymmetric Technologies (DYSL-AT) and RCI. It included ways to counter stationery as well as high-speed moving targets. The key features of the weapon system included a secure communication link, high firing angular resolution, vision-based target detection, effective recoil management system, and target tracking. But they have not been developed further or there has been no update as to what is the current status of that technology.
India has also developed ‘National Counter Rogue Drone Guidelines, 2019’, which is a step in the right direction outlining ‘procedural means’ of prevention, deterrence and denial and ‘active means’ of detection, interruption and destruction. According to these Guidelines of 2019, the counter-drone infrastructure needs to work ondiversified defensive strategies in the five concentric circles of prevention, deterrence, denial, detection, interruption and destruction.
What lies ahead?
This Jammu Incident is a wakeup call to realise the importance of anti-drone policies in India. With the advancement of drone technology and birth of new ways to attack someone, these threats will only amplify and increase in numbers. Whether it is the military or the civil society, no one is safe from this new trend of security threat. Drones are no longer mere nuisance; they can be a catalyst of destruction when they fall into wrong hands. And before they actually cause a havoc, India should potentially look into Anti-Drone machines of US Special Forces, Sparrowhawk of Israel’s Military of Defence or the defenders made by DRDO for unmanned aircrafts.
A globalised approach in the new and evolving sector of C-UAS is necessary as it will not only help us to strengthen the ties with our allies but will also help us to procure the best state of art machines and weapons from the countries who have the technical know-how of this sector. It is not the intention to belittle any organisation or program by not procuring the indigenous machinery but to expand the horizons in the Research & Development of Defence Sector by calling in the countries who have tackled the similar issues way before our country. Their technical knowledge would help us to skip the part of experimentation and directly help us in avoiding any unanticipated event on our territory.
All the procurement should be made on urgent basis as it is the need of hour and even after several inter-departmental meetings in last two years including BSF releasing its Qualitative Requirements (QRs / Specifications) And Trial Directives for “Anti-Drone System”, still there has been no qualitative progress of procuring the anti-drone systems in India except for the wait for approvals and piling up of documents. Sometimes it is necessary to take quick action to ensure security of the country, therefore joint efforts of the defence bodies in R&D along with procuring Anti-Drone machinery from various countries is required.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Rules, 2021, http://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2021/225860.pdf