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MQ-9B Drones To Enhance Maritime Security

Context:

Recently, the US approved the sale of 31 MQ-9B armed drones to India. The acquisition will enhance India’s Maritime security.

Relevance:

GS-III: Internal Security Challenges (Defence Technology), GS-III: Science and Technology, GS-II: Governance (Government Policies & Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. MQ-9B Drones
  2. About Drones
  3. Usage of Drones Explored in India
  4. Regulation of Drone usage in India

MQ-9B Drones:

  • India is set to acquire 31 MQ-9B from the US at an estimated cost of USD 3.99 billion. This demonstrates India’s commitment to modernising its military.
    • The SeaGuardian drones are being procured for the three services as they can carry out a variety of roles including maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare and over-the-horizon targeting.
    • The High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones are capable of remaining airborne for over 35 hours and can carry four Hellfire missiles and around 450 kgs of bombs.
  • Significance:
    • The acquisition will bolster India’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation.
    •  The long-endurance drones will bolster the surveillance capabilities of Indian armed forces, especially along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

About Drones

  • Drone is a layman terminology for Unmanned Aircraft (UA). There are three subsets of Unmanned Aircraft- Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Autonomous Aircraft and Model Aircraft.
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft consists of remote pilot station(s), the required command and control links and any other components, as specified in the type design.
  • Drones offer low-cost, safe and quick aerial surveys for data collection and are useful for industries such as power, mining, realty, oil and gas exploration, railways and highways. They are also effective in relief and rescue work and in policing.
  • DGCA has designed five different categories of drones as: Nano, Micro, Small, Medium, and Large.

Usage of Drones Explored in India

  • Agriculture- Gather data and automate redundant processes to maximize efficiency, to spray medicines, In a process of planting by distributing seed on the land, etc.
  • Healthcare- Delivering quick access to drugs, blood, and medical technology in remote areas, transportation of harvested organs to recipients (through drones corridor), etc.
  • Disaster Management- Surveillance of disaster-affected areas to assess damage, locate victims, and deliver aid.
  • Urban Planning- Instant mapping and survey of the land which has to be developed avoiding congestion and increasing green cover. E.g.: Recently, the Greater Chennai Municipal Corporation (GCMC) became first Municipal Corporation to map Chennai using drones.
  • Conservation of Endangered Species- Monitor and track the number of animals.
  • Weather Forecasting- Drones can physically follow weather patterns as they develop to understand the environment and imminent weather trends in a better way.
  • Waste Management- Identify where the garbage is so that it can be picked up the garbage picking vans. Drones can be used to clean ocean waste as well. UAV like Roomba by RanMarine operates at the vanguard of these initiatives and have helped to clean oceans in past.
  • Mining- Drones in mining can be used in volumetric data capturing of ore, rock and minerals storage which is extremely difficult to measure manually.

Regulation of Drone usage in India

Drone Regulation 1.0

  • Drone Regulation 1.0 is a set of guidelines issued by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for commercial use of drones or remotely operated aircraft came into force from 2018.
  • Under this regulation, the Digital Sky Platform will enable online registration of pilots, devices, service providers, and NPNT (no permission, no take-off).
  • The Digital Sky Platform is a unique unmanned traffic management (UTM) system which is expected to facilitate registration and licensing of drones and operators in addition to giving instant (online) clearances to operators for every flight.
  • The airspace has been partitioned into Red Zone (flying not permitted), Yellow Zone (controlled airspace), and Green Zone (automatic permission). The restricted locations are airports, near international border, near coastline, state secretariat complexes strategic locations, military installations.

Drone Regulations 2.0

  • Drone regulations 2.0, focuses on three thresholds:
    • BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight),
    • Delivery of payloads, and
    • Automate the air traffic management to the extent possible.
  • The current policy allows one drone pilot for each drone whereas in the next set of regulations, one pilot can operate any number of drones. Under drone regulations 2.0, the drones will be tracked by computers through artificial intelligence.
  • However, delivery of products by e-commerce players like Amazon and flying taxis like Uber Elevate are likely to be part of drone regulations 3.0.

Draft Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2020

  • The Draft Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2020 are a set of rules notified by the government aims to regulate the production, import, trade, ownership, establishment of the drone ports (airports for drones) and operation of unmanned aircraft systems. It also seeks to create a framework for drones use by businesses.
  • The Rules state that an authorised manufacturer or importer of drones can sell its devices only to an individual or entity approved by the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and only Nano class drones will be allowed to operate in India in general and only a qualified remote pilot will be permitted to operate heavier drones.
  • The DGCA will have the powers to inspect a UAS manufacturing or maintenance facility before granting any authorisation under these rules.
  • No UAS shall operate in India unless there is in existence a valid third-party insurance policy to cover the liability that may arise on account of a mishap involving such UAS.
  • No UAS should carry any payload except as permitted by the DGCA.
  • No person shall drop or project or permit to be dropped from a UAS in motion any object except when specified.
  • For owning and using a drone, one has to be at least 18 years old and in the case of companies, the requirement is that their main place of business has to be in India and the chairman and at least two thirds of directors have to be Indian citizens.

-Source: The Hindu, Livemint


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