Drone threat: Centre to fast-track policy

Two days after the first-ever terror drone strike in the country at the Jammu air force station, PM Narendra Modi chaired a top level meeting to discuss a policy on the use of civil drones, ‘futuristic challenges’ in the defence sector and the need to suitably equip the military with modern equipment to tackle such threats.

The two-hour meeting with defence minister Rajnath Singh, home minister Amit Shah, national security advisor Ajit Doval and others, including civil aviation ministry officials, decided to fast-track a “comprehensive policy” on the use of drones by civilian operators in the country.

“There was a discussion on futuristic challenges in the defence sector and equipping our forces with modern equipment. Aspects relating to involving more youth, start-ups and the strategic community in this were also discussed,” a government source said.

With small drones now being increasingly used for commercial operations, the civil aviation ministry has issued guidelines on their use under the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021. The military and police forces, however, are against a “very liberal opening up of the skies” for civilian drone operations in the final policy.

“There should be stringent restrictions on the heights at which these drones can be operated. Moreover, there should be clearly demarcated no-fly zones, with 80-100 km buffer zones around vital installations, military areas and the like,” a source said.

This has hit home after the explosive-laden drone attack on the Jammu air force station, which was in all probability aimed at the airport’s Air Traffic Control tower and the Mi-17 V5 helicopter hangar at the base, on Sunday.

Fortunately, the IEDs missed their targets, while two IAF personnel were injured after being hit by splinters. But there have been other drone sightings in the Jammu region over the last couple of days, which has led all military bases in J&K to go on high alert with jammers and snipers being deployed.

Ahead of the meeting called by the PM, Rajanth Singh was briefed on the Jammu attack as well as the draft policy on civilian drone operations by IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria.

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