Eyes in The Sky
Terrorism in all its forms must be condemned – this has been the collective mission of nations across the world and international agencies. India too endorses this thought – however, a country with 15,106 kilometers of land borders and a coastline of about 7,516 kilometers shares these long borders with seven countries. Of these countries, a few pose an incessant threat to India’s internal as well as external security.
Although internal security is taken care of by state police, Intelligence Bureau and RAW (Research and Analysis Wing), external threat always remains the paramount responsibility of Border Security Forces in conjunction with the Indian Army. Manning the 15,106 km land border and 700 km Line of Control (LoC), along with an extremely harsh environment is practically impossible with the available infrastructure.
Drones to the rescue
To tackle internal and external threats, Indian law enforcement agencies, especially the Indian Army, is increasingly relying on the use of intelligent drone technologies for security and surveillance, and also to support its soldiers in harsh weather conditions. That said, there are a certain set of systems that can scrupulously monitor those areas, but typically, these larger systems are limited in number. At the same time, it is also difficult to create the infrastructure required to deploy such systems.
The Indian Army, which has been looking at drone technology for a long time now, is inducting drones in numbers to look at the precious areas of our country. Today, ideaForge Technology is delivering drones to the Indian Army, which is helping them keep a close eye on those areas that give them unprecedented views of what they never saw was even existing on the other side. Its SWITCH UAV is the first of its kind ‘Vertical Take-Off and Landing’ aircraft with fixed wing hybrid tactical drone deployed at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The SWITCH weighs 6.5 kgs and is capable of both vertical take-off and conventional flight. It can carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from an altitude of 4,000 m up to 15 km, with a wind resistance of up to 10.8 knots per hour.
On the other hand, the Haryana Forest Department has inducted drones to monitor wildlife and prevent illegal activities like tree cutting, encroachment and road construction in the Aravalli Range. The Government of Maharashtra has deployed drones to enhance the transparency and credibility of forest governance. It approved the use of drones to track the health of forests, encroachments, tree felling, forest fires, poaching, the status of water bodies, biodiversity protection, and mangrove conservation.
The Government of Tamil Nadu has deployed drones (in the Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Dindigul, Hosur and Tirunelveli) equipped with thermal detectors and infrared rays for real-time monitoring of animal movement and to prevent the spread of forest fires. Also, the buzzing sound created by drones at 131 decibels is used to drive away elephants, which normally requires the effort of 50–80 individuals.
The use of drones for security and surveillance is evident in many state police departments. For example, the Delhi police have used drones during the Delhi Assembly Elections and the devastating riots in the city in February 2020. Further, the UP government used drones to monitor potential protests during the foundation of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, while the Indian Railways have recently procured drones to keep railway premises under surveillance. The increasing use of drones for security and surveillance is in line with a growing international trend of using drones as policing tools, such as in the USA, Australia, Brazil, and United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Punjab police used drones to send alerts to the nearest police officer upon detecting individuals less than 6 feet apart, using a combination of artificial intelligence, location mapping, and high-definition cameras. The Crime Branch of the Thane Police Department deployed drones to confirm suspicions and gather evidence of bootlegging in a village. The drones identified three locations and drums, planks, mixing tubs, furnaces, raw materials, etc., and thus helped the department officials to conduct raids.
As part of a pilot project, the Government of Karnataka is using drones for crowd and traffic surveillance for effective planning decisions by the state police department. In addition to surveillance, the police department is also applying video analytics. Interestingly, the Tamil Nadu Police Department may be the first force in the country to deploy drones for a murder investigation, in an area that was inaccessible and covered with thick bush.
India’s drone ecosystem
According to a report published by PwC in January 2020, India’s drone market is expected to reach $1,810 million by FY 2026, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 14.61 per cent. The global drone market is to scale over $43 billion in 2024 from $14 billion in 2018 at a CAGR of 20.5 per cent. The report also suggested that more than 150 drone start-ups are grooming in India, indicating the wide scope evolution of the drone ecosystem – ideaForge is leading by example. Recently, we have received one of the largest small drone contracts worth $20 million for SWITCH 1.0 UAVs, from the Indian Armed Forces.
ideaForge drones also played a pivotal role in India’s fight against Covid-19. A case in point is Sangli Police, which deployed ideaForge Q Series UAV to enforce lockdown and mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Further, Mumbai Police deployed ideaForge megaphone drone for lockdown surveillance in densely populated Dharavi. Also, Uttar Pradesh Police deployed ideaForge Q4i UAVs for flood emergency response in Kanpur, whereas Chamba Police used it to track COVID-19 protocol violators