Quite like scenes out of a Hollywood sci-fi flick, the International Border along Punjab appears set to witness high-tech aerial supremacy battles involving drones. Though it is not new for rogue drones from Pakistan carrying contraband to violate Indian airspace, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is
now “actively” considering deployment of at least two systems with anti-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technologies, laced with enhanced night-vision, laser and jammer capabilities, which can more efficiently deal with Pakistani drones with 10-kg-plus payload capacity.
Home Minister Amit Shah is believed to be keen on early deployment of anti-drone systems like the SkyWall 100 and the DroneGun Tactical CHIMERA anti-drone system, developed using French technology. Sources said Bharat Electrical Limited’s anti-drone radar is also being considered to
tackle rogue drones.
The drones in the new fleet of Indian agencies are likely to have a range of up to 400 metres with capability to jam a rogue UAV’s signal to disable its controls. The Indian surveillance drones, tested by the MHA-constituted Anti Rogue Drone Technology Committee, would also be capable of
capturing a Pakistani drone with a net.
The growing activities of Pakistani drug smugglers and ISI-backed terror operatives on the western border have nudged the Centre to seek inputs also from the Defence Research Development Organisation, Border Security Force, Narcotics Control Bureau and other intelligence agencies on the
way forward on suggestions to set up an advanced drone forensic lab in Amritsar, sources said.
“The advanced forensic facilities at the proposed state-of-the-art Regional Drone Forensic Lab may help trace the origin, destination and route maps of rogue drones,” said an official.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and Shah’s focus on countering Pakistan and showing “zero tolerance” against narcotic smuggling is also pushing the think-tank in the intelligence and security setup to scout for start-ups and academic institutions that can help Indian security agencies outdo Pakistani UAVs and develop counter mechanisms to fight the future threats posed by drones.
“Some start-ups involved in developing agri-drones may also be roped in,” said an official, adding that a standard operating procedure (SOP) for drones using agencies like the BSF and other enforcement agencies, including police forces, is also being refined for effective action.
At present, the security agencies, including the BSF, intercept Pakistani drones by firing at them. The success rate in such actions remains low and the rogue UAVs manage to escape unharmed with their payload—usually slung under the belly of the flying machine.
The drugs menace is more pronounced in Punjab’s border area. In Firozpur district alone, 795 cases were registered under the NDPS Act between July 2022 and 2023. The state government claims that 491 drone sightings were reported in Punjab since 2019 and 51 drones were neutralised.
This year so far, BSF operations in frontier districts of Punjab have resulted in the seizure of 30 drones, 260 kg heroin, 19 weapons, 30 magazines and 470 bullets, official data showed.
Some of the UAVs recovered by the BSF were quadcopters of model DJI Matrice 300RTK series.
The hardware and chip used in many rogue drones were found to be of Chinese make. In some cases, there were signs of attempts to camouflage or hide the identity of the drone’s origin by replacing the original components with processors of computers or mobile phones.
MHA figures indicate that BSF has seized over 500 drones along the Pakistan border between 2020 and 2023. Incidentally, Pakistan’s involvement in smuggling drugs into Punjab was recently confirmed by a government functionary, Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, an advisor to the Prime
Minister in that country. A news agency reported that he had admitted on camera that such activities were taking place, especially, in Indian Punjab’s Firozpur and Khemkaran areas.