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India needs drone trackers to ensure national security, says outgoing civil aviation ministry official

India needs drone trackers to ensure national security, says outgoing civil aviation ministry official

The official warned that a widespread ban in the eventuality of a terror attack by drones from a hostile country would push the industry back by several years.

Trackers are essentially miniaturised GPS, radio frequency, Bluetooth or buzzer devices placed on drones for easy detection Trackers are essentially miniaturised GPS, radio frequency, Bluetooth or buzzer devices placed on drones for easy detection

An outgoing policymaker at the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has urged stakeholders in the country’s fledgling drone sector to self-regulate by implementing trackers for easier monitoring of their craft.

“I would like to ask the industry to introduce trackers at the earliest. And we have a government that is inviting the industry to formulate its regulations,” said joint secretary MoCA, Amber Dubey, who is also in charge of the drone division.

Dubey, whose three-year term ends on Friday, warned that otherwise, another incident like the June 2021 attack by two enemy drones on an Indian Air Force base in Jammu might result in a widespread ban on drone flights across the country.

“Did we in the government lose? That incident made things easy for us as we just went ahead with the ban on drone flights in several areas of Jammu & Kashmir to avoid a recurrence. However, a similar ban may take the industry back by five years!” remarked Dubey.

Trackers are essentially miniaturised GPS, radio frequency, Bluetooth or buzzer devices placed on drones for easy detection. More importantly, like the number plate on a car or the IMEI number on a mobile handset, they help in identifying the owner of the flying machine.

“Anything that moves, especially anything that flies in our sovereign airspace, needs to be monitored through an identifier,” said Dubey.

Dubey has for long been urging industry groups, the Drone Federation of India (DFI) and drone associations in states to work with the government to come up with a draft notification on trackers after finalising those standards. Terming the delay on their part as unfortunate, he said that it may even lead to the ministries of home affairs and defence questioning their intent soon.

“Therefore, please work on the notification regarding trackers. If everything is fine with the draft, the government will take care of the rest of the details,” assured Dubey.

He further added that the government was committed to simplifying rules regarding trackers.

“People often say that trackers need to be on drones or in the ground control systems. But we want to start small. For starters, we will use mobile phone networks for monitoring,” declared Dubey.

MoCA is aggressively promoting the country’s budding drone sector to become a $30-billion industry by 2030. In June, the ministry released the second provisional list of beneficiaries under the government’s flagship Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the sector.

Also read: What Maruti did with cars in the 1980s, need similar approach for drones, says MoS V.K. Singh

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