The government has finalised National Counter Rogue Drone Guidelines, with an aim to lay down an array of counter-rogue drone measures and guidelines that can be deployed for handling the threats to installations from unmanned aircraft systems. In the guidelines, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has suggested a counter-rogue drone deployment plan, categorised across three levels, based on the sensitivity of vital assets and installations.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued no-permission, no-takeoff (NPNT) regulations for drones that prescribe a built-in firewall, which prevents drones without the necessary permissions from taking off. While NPNT norms are a first in the world across countries flying drones, experts argue that the restrictions can only be made applicable to aircraft that are rolled out now. For those already in the market — estimated to be over half a million as per a government document — anti-drone technology and regulations are deemed necessary to prevent any untoward incidents.
“The strategic installations differ from state to state and place to place, based on their geographical condition, criticality and construction type. In view of the requirement of numerous C-UAS (counter-unmanned aircraft system) systems for protection of strategic installations in the country, a realistic vulnerability analysis of identified VAs/VPs (vital areas/vital points) by specialist security agencies based on impact assessment from different category of drones, natural camouflage and local security scenario etc needs to be conducted by MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) and state home departments to finalise the requirement of C-UAS protection,” as per the document detailing the guidelines that was reviewed by The Indian Express.
The three models suggested in the guidelines include the full-scale model for protection of vital assets of critical national importance like Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House, nuclear installations, major airports, etc; the mid-segment model for installations like metro airports, oil refineries, ports, and power plants; and basic model for state secretariats, important official premises, monuments of national importance etc.
In case of the full-scale category, the guidelines suggest a C-UAS model that consists of primary and passive detection means like radar, radio frequency (RF) detectors, electro-optical, and infrared cameras. In addition to this, soft kill and hard kill measures like RF jammers, GPS spoofers, lasers, and drone catching nets are also suggested to be installed. Similarly, for the mid-segment and basic models, lower level of threat mitigation techniques have been suggested.
In addition to the counter rogue drone deployment models, the civil aviation ministry has also suggested a set of legal procedures to handle rogue drones.
“In most countries, signal jamming devices for RF and GPS jamming and seizing control of aircraft, including the more advanced directed systems and other kinetic and non-kinetic means for interception of drones are either illegal or restricted…As the drone industry continues to expand in India, it is essential that necessary legal provisions are framed to authorise the designated law enforcement agencies to protect the public/vital assets from rogue drones. The legislation shall contain safeguards to ensure that the use of Counter-UAS authority will be risk-based and coordinated closely among relevant departments and agencies to mitigate adverse impacts to the safety, efficiency and accessibility to the Indian airspace to the maximum extent feasible,” the ministry noted.
It has suggested a legal framework to be prepared for authorised use of C-UAS systems by security agencies for protecting vital assets, safeguarding manned aviation, supporting law enforcement activities, protecting national borders and conducting operations.
The genesis of the counter rogue drone guidelines lies in the rising number of drone-related safety incidents across the world including in India. In the recent years, multiple incidents of sightings of drones in near vicinity to commercial airliners and major airports like New Delhi and Mumbai have been reported. Further, the civil aviation ministry has exhorted that the upsurge in drone use has increased the threat quotient for VVIPs who can be targeted through the rogue drones.
“Recent incidents of utilisation of drones to target VVIPs in Venezuela and operations of such platforms dangerously close to dignitaries in Germany, Japan and the US are a stark reminder of the threat level from errant and rogue drones,” it said.