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Vision is for India to be the Drone Hub of the world; Drones shall play a key role in future armed conflicts: Amber Dubey, JS, MoCA

Feb 03, 2021

India's Drone & Counter-Drone cumulative market potential up to 2030 is estimated at Rs 300,000 crore: Rajan Luthra, Chair, FICCI Committee on Drones

NEW DELHI, 03 February 2021: Mr Amber Dubey, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Govt of India today said that the vision is for us (India) to be the drone hub of the world. "Atmanirbhar Bharat is no more a slogan. However, bulk of the drone components require scale and right now the market in India is too small to give that scale. Volumes will only come through enabling DSR (Demand, Supply, Regulations)," he said.

Addressing the FICCI Session on Drones & Counter-Drone Opportunities in Defence and Homeland Security at Aero India, Mr Dubey said that drones are the future of armed conflicts and the impact has been witnessed by all in recent times. Lauding the start-up ecosystem in the drones' sector, he said that the very people who today are delivering agri drones and mining drones will also give us military drones.

Further, Mr Dubey informed that the draft Drone Rules are already in the final stages of discussion with the law ministry. "Hopefully by 31 March we should come up with the drone rules," he said.

On quality, Mr Dubey noted that the DGCA has appointed QCI (Quality Council of India) to look at the quality certification and approvals process. The QCI, in turn, has a run a collaborative process and come up with a guidance manual. "Quality is paramount and that is why we have outsourced it to parties that have more knowledge. This is the kind of PPP that we are looking at," he noted.

Mr Rakesh Asthana, Director General, Border Security Force informed that while there were 167 recorded sighting of drones in the Western Front in 2019, there were 77 sightings in the last year. "There have been instances of dropping off arms & ammunition as well as narcotics through drones, particularly in the Punjab and the Jammu sector," he said.

"The drone technology is being effectively used for not only smuggling activities but also for surveillance purposes by anti-national elements and non-state actors that are also seeking to augment their counter drone capabilities having interception, direction finding, and jamming capabilities. If these are not addressed appropriately and effectively, it will pose a daunting challenge for us in times to come," Mr Asthana said.

The use of drones for anti-Naxal operations is also very important. As far as BSF is concerned, we are using the drone technology for surveillance purposes, countering rogue drones sent in by our not so friendly neighbouring nations, he added.

Mr Asthana further informed that the govt has already authorised a considerable number of micro and small drones and in the times to come this number is expected to increase manifold. "Many anti-drone systems have also been approved by the MHA and we are in the process of finalising the equipment suited to our requirements," he said.

BSF is equipping itself with futuristic technology, especially in drones and the system to counter rogue drones at the border. There are specific parameters that we are working on and in the near future we are going to acquire a sizeable number of drones to enhance our capabilities so far as border guarding is concerned, Mr Asthana noted.

Brig ZIS Yazdani SM, VSM, Brig Army Design Bureau, Indian Army said the Army Design Bureau facilitates the industry, academia, DRDO's, DPSU's participation towards resolving the problems that the army is facing. 

"Our country has a land border of 15,000 kms and a coastline of 75,000 kms. The armed forces need to carry out surveillance and operations; need to target enemy camps and technology is needed to take it forward. Hence, the demand for drone surveillance in the country is huge," he said. Brig Yazdani pointed out that there is a requirement for surveillance in high altitude area.

Further, on the contribution of start-ups in the Drones sector, Brig Yazdani said, "Start-ups in this field have beaten large industries, not on cost but on technology in meeting user requirements," he said.

Mr MA Ganapathy, Director General, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), Ministry of Civil Aviation, Govt. of India said that drones have proliferated multifarious uses and the regulatory regime in almost all countries is struggling to cope with the growth of the drone ecosystem.

Mr Ganapathy added that the deadline for all metro and hypersensitive airports to have counter-drone solutions has been extended from 21 January as decided earlier owing to the pandemic. The BCAS is in the process of issuing new dates for the installation of counter drone solutions, especially for the metro airports.

Mr Rajan Luthra, Chair - FICCI Committee on Drones said that India's Drone & Counter-Drone market potential up to 2030 is cumulatively estimated to be around INR 300,000 crore (approx. US$ 40 billion) with Defence and Homeland Security accounting for ~50 per cent of it.

He added that India's drone sector has a promising future. "The importance of the drone sector is getting realised on a daily basis in terms of how new opportunities are shaping up and many key developments are taking place at an increasingly rapid pace," he said.

Mr Luthra further said that in line with the Raksha Mantri's address at the inaugural session of Aero India 2021, the 'sangam' (confluence) of rising demand for drones & counter drones; innovation due to a large number of start-ups; enabling conducive policies and maturing ecosystems, will make India the drone hub of the world.

FICCI has been supporting the Ministry of Commerce & Industry in preparing a vision and action plan blueprint for the Drone sector with guidance from the SCALE committee setup by DPIIT and with support of EY as Knowledge Partner, Mr Luthra further added.

Mr Ankit Mehta, Co-Chair - FICCI Committee on Drones and Co-Founder, IdeaForge said that the announcement of SWAMITVA Yojana is supremely in favour of drone industry. "We need to look at local sources of UAV technology and use at our borders as well," he added.