Drones at big, fat, Indian weddings might not be able to fly under the radar anymore

Drones at big, fat, Indian weddings might not be able to fly under the radar anymore
The Indian government is looking into counter drone measures to take down rogue drones in its airspaceWikimedia

  • The Indian government is currently looking into counter UAV measure to take down 'rogue' drones.
  • Even though there are guidelines in place, the government doesn't have a mechanism in place to tell good drones from 'rogue' drones.
  • Nearly 50,000 drones in the Indian airspace are flying without meeting the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR).
It's not rare to find illegal drones filming Indian weddings or social events across the country. But the big, fat, Indian wedding may have to wait with the government mulling over options to counter unlicensed drones in India's airspace.

"We don't know which drone is rogue and which is good. We should have technology to counter it. Whether you go in for commercial or security purposes, the technology has to be such which can prevent the rogue drones in our country," Rakesh Asthaana, Director General, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) said.

"We have taken the live trials; second pilot has just been completed and we are in the process of finalising our reports which we will be submitting to the ministry soon," Asthaana shared.
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Before the drone guidelines were implemented in India, there were around 50,000 drones operating in its air space, according to a report by FICCI and E&Y.

Even though these drones were flying around, almost none of them meet the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) and aren't compliant with the no-permission no-take off (NPNT) mandate.

So there's no way to stop them even if they're spotted flying against the law.

Social 'rogue' drones

It's not just weddings that are in question. The risk is greater when the event in question is on a bigger scale — like the Kumbh Mela were 140 million people were taking a dip in the Ganga this year.

At the same time, there was a terrorist threat at large. A disruption from a 'rogue' drone at this time can potentially result in severe damage, according to the report.

It also highlights that India more vulnerable to collateral damage because of its high population density of 411 persons per square kilometer.

Drones, which can be controlled wirelessly, can be controlled from anywhere within a 13 square kilometer area — larger than an Indian city suburb. So, that makes tracking the person controlling the drone difficult to track down.

Irresponsible 'rogue' drones

The threat of drones isn't only to people on the ground but also to other vehicles that share the same air space.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that India's aviation industry will continue to grow at a rapid pace. As of March 2019, India had 103 operation airports with India planning to hit 190 to 200 airports by 2040.

The increasing amount of aircraft means there more air traffic for drones to be wary of. Irresponsible or mistaken 'rogue' drones can increase the risk faced by flights.

CAR can't stop 'rogue' drones

The first official notice to ban the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the Indian air force was issued back in 2014 by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). But, despite the notice it was difficult to actually enforce the ban.

India's geographical vastness limits the ability of the government to monitor flights of these 50,000 'rogue' drones that aren't registered with the authorities.

And, that's where counter unmanned aerial system (cUAS) technology comes in. Traditional methods like anti-aircraft radars don't generally pick up on drones because they have been designed to detect large metallic object that move fast. Drones, on the other hand, move slower and fly lower.

The first step is normally to mandate no-fly zones, which is something the Indian government has already implemented with the green, amber and red zones. The NPNT process ensures that drones are automatically directed back to their home location before they actually enter a fly zone.

But, a complete cUAS system has to be capable of detecting, tracking as well as intercepting drones.

"If we can manufacture world class drones within the country, we can obviously manufacture world class counter drone measures. Otherwise what will happen is dependence on global market will continue for the anti-drone measures as it is for drones currently," shared Sanjay Jaju, Joint Secretary in the Department of Defence Production at the Ministry of Defence.