by Gp. Cap. Anupam Banerjee (r.), Senior Consultant-SIDM
IADB: The attack by small drones in the Jammu Airbase of the Indian Air Force on 27 June 2021 triggered a national debate on the urgent requirement of Counter-Drone systems for our security forces. National Security Analysts have been warning about the likelihood of such attacks for a few years now. However, the matter only started getting desired public attention after the recent Jammu attack.
As drones get smaller in size, the ability to detect, identify and neutralise hostile drones becomes increasingly tricky. Also, Counter Drone Systems refers to a host of systems with various technology offering an entire range of solutions.
According to a recent survey, the Indian UAV market will be worth $886 million, and the global market size has the potential to touch $21 billion by the end of 2021. It is an area that has shown great potential in the last few years, and the release of a revised Drone Policy by the Govt of India recently will give the sector a tremendous boost.
With such a vast potential of growth for the drone market and concurrent chances of these technologies falling In the hands of anti-national elements, the challenge to quickly develop anti-drone systems indigenously to defend the Vital Areas (VA) and Vital Points (VP) assumes greater urgency.
Defending the country’s entire internal Airspace from such threats is a challenging proposition. Endless possibilities exist in designing counter-drone systems, and there exists a need to prioritise solutions and synergise efforts of the various stakeholders. An empowered committee at the appropriate level constituting members from the defence forces, industry, including Defence Public Sector Undertakings and the Academia should be tasked to formulate a possible roadmap avoiding duplication of efforts by different elements of the national security. Synergised procurement plans of other agencies will also result in economies of scale that offer an opportunity to the domestic industry for production through a viable business model.
Also, the innovation schemes under the ‘Make’ categories, Innovation in Defence Excellence (iDEX) and Technology Development Fund (TDF) initiatives have .amply demonstrated that our MSMEs and Start-Ups are fully capable of offering innovative solutions. However, developing a prototype as a technology demonstrator and producing such systems commercially are entirely different. The costs involved are high, and hence many such projects do not realise their true potential.
Thus, import becomes a quick-fix solution in the absence of viable indigenous options and urgency of capability development. But, since the technology in the fields of drones and anti-drone are continuously evolving, all systems acquired will require continuous technology upgrades, thus resulting in high recurring costs. Developing indigenous solutions thus becomes a national priority.
The solution, while not easy, may be multipronged. While the policy continues to evolve due to the dynamics involved, consideration must be given to increasing funding for innovative solutions. In addition, large established private defence industries must come forward and support young entrepreneurs. With all stakeholders’ focused and synergized approach under enabling policy initiatives, India may emerge as a world leader in this fast-developing field.