Drone Turns to Buzz, Extra Tech Wanted

The draft Drones Rules, 2021, replacing the regulations issued in March this year, mark a new paradigm of light-touch governance. Based on trust, self-certification, clever tech and non-intrusive monitoring, the proposed regulations could help develop and promote the use of drones while ensuring oversight to address security concerns. The policy on drones must also emphasise the need to develop advanced counter-drone technology to disable rogue drones.

The simplification of the licensing regime prescribed is welcome, as also the permission for non-citizens to operate drones. The Digital Sky Platform, complete with an interactive, dynamic airspace map, sounds excellent. However, the notion that small drones flying low offer no threat seems disingenuous. Nightmare visions of armies of tiny drones bearing explosive charges and controlled by artificial intelligence requiring no human control cannot, however, be dismissed as fantasy.

Drones have immense potential benefits, in everything ranging from surveys to drug delivery and crop husbandry. Harvesting those benefits while guarding against their potential harm could mean sizeable upfront outlays on passive and active defence mechanisms, such as extensive electro-optical surveillance of the airspace around vital installations and deployment of rogue drone-disabling equipment, ranging from jammers of drone GPS and other guidance signals to interceptor drones.

Even more vital is retraining security guards and police forces to be aware of and counter a potential new form of insecurity. Developing a vibrant drone tech ecosystem might not be so hard, given the appeal the field holds for tech-savvy youth enamoured of flying and foiling the enemy just like in their computer games. Funds matter.

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