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'India not prepared for 'swarm of drones’ attacks' 

The Times of India , Feb 08, 2020

In the small hours of September 14 last year, 10 drones sneaked into the Saudi Arabian air space and targeted two crude oil fields, triggering massive fires and a global oil crisis. While Saudis managed to douse the inferno soon, it took countries across the continents several days to rein in the soaring crude oil prices.

Saudis had installed systems in the oil fields to detect drones but the ‘flying enemies’ gave them a slip.

That were 10 drones. Now imagine the sight if a ‘swarm of drones’ are used to carry out such coordinated attacks. Simply put, it would be catastrophic, for which a country like India is not prepared yet, warn defence and cyber experts. “Rogue drones or unmanned aerial vehicles pose the biggest challenge for the future, as they can easily target a nation’s critical infrastructure like gas fields and airports,” said Pankaj Kuchhal, general manager, technical, Indian Oil Corporation.

These deliberations were part of a session titled “Countering Rogue Drones”, organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) at the ongoing Defence Expo in Lucknow on Friday.

While emphasising that drones will remain part of the future security and development projects, panellists said it was time to put in place an advance mechanism that can neutralize threats from the aerial miscreants.

However, the main challenge lies in detecting drones as they fly very low and often go undetected by radars.

Sunny Sharma, CEO of Bangalore-based IIO Technologies Private Limited, suggested the use of radio frequency or RF, which, he said, was way more effective than radars in detecting drones. Once detected, rogue drones can be jammed. Most of the other experts also said jamming was an effective technique.

Sharma stressed that besides technology, drone users must also be educated as many users of the flying object can trigger a catastrophe unintentionally. “Counter-rogue drone strategies are meant for criminals, whereas clueless or careless users need to be educated,” he added.

The experts were of the view that one counter-strategy may not work, and therefore, a combination of measures should be devised to ground the aerial enemy.

In an engaging interaction with the audience, Amber Dubey, joint secretary in the civil aviation ministry, said the central government would lay out the guidelines on use of drones in the coming months so that their misuse is checked. “A firecracker dropped from a rogue drone on a large crowd will not kill anyone, but it would be enough to cause a stampede. And that’s a big scare. Hence steps to counter such objects are required,” he added.

Lt Gen (retd) Sanjeev Madhok said at present it’s “a cat-mouse chase” between experts and attackers.

“The key is to stay ahead of criminal minds so that they are not able to disrupt our daily lives by aerial means,” the former Army officer added.