- DRDO developed a counter-drone technology system in 2020, however it did not get any order from the Indian armed forces.
- Experts believe that the drone as well as counter-drone technology are fairly young and still need improvements.
- Indian government rolled out guidelines against rogue drones in 2013, yet the country doesn’t have enough anti-drone devices.
As the government of India has just started recognising the potential use cases of drones in the Indian healthcare system, it was hit with a harsh reality that the enemies of the state have taken leaps to incorporate this technology to harm the South Asian nation.
Two bombs were dropped at the Indian Air Force station in Jammu, in the early hours of June 27 this year.
|June 27, 2021||Two bombs dropped on IAF base in Jammu between 1:43 a.m.-1:50 a.m.|
|June 27, 2021||Two more drones were spotted over IAF military stations at 11:45 p.m. and 2:40 a.m.|
|June 28, 2021||Two similar devices were noticed in Ratnuchak-Kaluchak military area in Jammu. This prompted soldiers to open fire.|
|Source: Media reports|
This compelled the Indian government and security forces to go on a shopping spree to buy expensive counter-drone systems. While there are not many counter-drone technology makers in India, few of these players include state-owned Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), ideaForge and Big Bang Boom Solutions.
According to media reports, there are over 500 companies that can help the country find a solution to its drone problem. All these companies may not make devices to harm or kill drones, but can certainly help in tracking them.
There are also several military tech private companies in the country, including Adani Defence & Aerospace and Kadet Defence Systems that make drones for surveillance and technology for other combat purposes; Atindriya Systems provides electronic systems and software solutions for defense, and Trijatta that develops radars and encryption devices for the military.
The government of India has been aware of the potential threat that rogue drones could pose in the security of the nation and issued a National Counter Rogue Drone Guidelines two years ago. The policy highlights that the drone factor should be taken seriously as unmanned aircrafts, consumer drones and do-it-yourself (DIY) drones are readily available over the internet.
The policy, referring to the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006, highlights “In certain incidents, the small drones were also armed with explosive ordnance, to convert them into potentially lethal guided missiles, thus demonstrating the growing sophistication with which these potent warriors have found relevance in combat zones.”
Yet it has found itself short of any large scale counter-drone system.
The Jammu attack in itself did not cost much, but it did highlight the urgency to invest in a counter-drone system that could prevent bigger attacks in the long run. In the coming months, the government of India wants to sign multi-million dollar [who’s saying this?] contracts with both domestic and foreign firms to procure these technologies.
The anti-drone technology has a massive headroom to cover
Kruthi Aramanamada, head of marketing at ideaForge, explained to Business Insider that counter-drone technology is expensive and fairly new as it came into existence only a decade ago. The technology is not fully matured and there is still a lot of scope of research and development (R&D) in this segment, she added.
Meanwhile, Anshuman Tripathi, a drone technology expert who is also a member of the National Security Advisory Board, said, “Drones are still evolving and solutions to handle them are incomplete. It’s a matter of a few years when the technology matures and you can standardise equipment as you go forward.”
Even developed countries like the US, Russia and Israel are pumping billions of dollars into research and development of both drones and counter-drone systems. However, they have not found a foolproof system for both hard and soft kill as yet.
Indian armed forces on a look out for counter-drone systems
In June 2020, IAF floated a Request for Information (RFI) for Indian vendors for Counter Unarmed Aircraft System (CUAS), which can be used to bring down the rogue drone. Apart from that, other ministries and departments are also looking to sign such contracts. However, there have not been many insights on who may end up getting such contracts.
One of the possible beneficiaries of this spree is likely to be Israel-based company Smart Shooter, a company that has been developing systems to help militaries track and engage moving targets.
Indian Navy had placed an order to procure an unspecified number of Smart Shooter’s SMASH 2000 Rifle Sights in December 2020. However, the Indian Army wasn’t quite impressed with it after their trials in January 2021. They found that the system may work well for the Navy as they work in open terrain, but it is not feasible for other terrains.
This highlighted another major challenge among the counter-drone technology — use cases. The counter-drone system is not a ‘one size fits all’ type of solution and has to be customised based on the criticality of the situation, Aramanamada added.
The debate between indigenous or foreign technology remains
Prof. P B Sujit, adjunct faculty at School of Engineering and Technology at BML Munjal University, said that the current counter-drone tech is limited and mostly sourced or licensed from other countries. He also noted that there are few Indian startups in the segment as well, but the quality of those solutions is undetermined at the moment.
“The trust in Indian developed tech is low. With the history of India importing from Israel, it’s natural to import this. Moreover Israel has good tech which has been field tested with Palestine stuff… So the confidence levels are right with the Israel tech,” he added.
Apart from the Israeli plan, the government is also on a look out for the technology developed by domestic players and foreign public as well as private sector units, drone original equipment manufacturers, defence tech firms and Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).
Indian stand on the counter-drone infrastructure includes only a few players at the moment:
|DRDO anti-drone system was first deployed in India in 2020, during various national events including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech. However, it is not being used. The device had the capability to detect, intercept and destroy small drones.|
|DRDO also carried out an urgent demonstration of its anti-drone system to armed forces at Kolar, a city in Karnataka, earlier in July 2021. The system has a detection capability of up to four kilometres with ‘soft kill’ option by radio frequency jamming.|
|National Security Guards had awarded a contract worth ₹1.49 crore to Bengaluru-based Accord Software & System for procurement of indigenous Counter Drone Technology System.|
|ideaForge has partnered with German tech firm Aaronia AG to develop anti-drone tech devices. However, the solutions have not been deployed on the ground yet.|
Even though the army and security forces are yet to deploy DRDO’s anti-drone system, Bharat Electronics Limited and three undisclosed private companies have signed a technology transfer agreement with the government. The agreement would enable these players to mass-produce the system.
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