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- Aircraft that fly without a human pilot, crew, or passengers are called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Drones.
- Modern drones were developed in the 1990s by the military for use in missions that were seen as too dangerous for humans. As technology grew and costs fell, Drones started to be built and used for a variety of other uses.
- In 2003, a small UAV called TAM 5, flew 3,020 Km from Canada to Ireland in less than 40 hours. It used GPS for guidance and send back data, via satellite. It weighed 2.7 kilos plus 2.3 kilos of fuel (around 3.5 liters of liquid petroleum fuel). It flew at an average altitude of 305 m (1,000 feet) above sea level, to avoid ship masts and any other aircraft. The drone was built by a team led by Maynard Hill, a retired metallurgist
- Most drones are remotely operated by humans. More sophisticated ones need less human help and operate with autopilot assistance while some need no human intervention at all.
- Classified on the basis of their weight, nano (weighing up to 250 g), Micro air vehicles (MAV) (250 g – 2 kg), Miniature UAV or small (SUAV) (2-25 kg), medium (25-150 kg), and large (over 150 kg) and range
- Single-board computers, software, and sensors keep track of its position and movement and provide information about the aircraft to the flier.
- Powerful motors keep both the drone and the object being carried aloft. It has propeller blades that turn at very high speeds.
- Some are made from carbon-fiber-reinforced composites while others from plastics and cost less to replace if one crashes.
- Most run on Lithium-ion batteries that offer enough energy and power. They are comparatively light and do not weigh down the drone too much.
- Some military versions stay in the air for hours or days at a time. Their high-tech cameras can scan entire cities, or zoom in and read text from far away. They can manually capture high-resolution photos from a still camera, or record video when needed
- Drones are used for delivery in remote or difficult terrains since they can easily fly in and out when compared to other modes of transport like trucks or motorcycles.
- The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) granted permission for conducting a feasibility study of Covid-19 vaccine delivery using drones in collaboration with IIT Kanpur and will be used in Dehradun, Haldwani, Haridwar, and Rudrapur. Drones saved lives by delivering blood in Rwanda and medicines in Puerto Rico during emergencies. They deliver personal protective equipment to Doctors in America and Israel. In China, they make sure that local residents don’t gather and even scold people for not wearing face masks. China also uses drones to monitor its citizens
- In order to enhance transparency and use the latest technology, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) makes use of drones for monthly video recording of national highway projects mandatory during all stages of development, construction, operation, and maintenance work. The footage will be used by the NHAI officials during the physical inspection of the projects to check the flaws and rectifications made on the basis of earlier observations.
- Aerial photography and surveys – Media and movie makers use them for aerial photography at a fraction of the cost of renting helicopters. India plans to use over 500 high-resolution drones to map nearly 6 lakh villages in the country that would verify and confirm the residential properties of more than 83 crore Indians. A hi-tech drone takes around 15 minutes to map an average Indian village, something previously unthinkable.
- Surveillance – During Holi celebrations, Drones were deployed by the Rapid Action Force (RAF) in 20 districts of Uttar Pradesh that were hypersensitive. The move was to ensure that the festival was celebrated in a peaceful manner. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) uses them for anti-terror operations in Kashmir to carry out reconnaissance in built-up areas to find terrorists.
- Agriculture – A bird’s eye view provided by a drone can reveal many issues related to irrigation, soil variation, and the presence of an unusually large number of insects or animals in a place. Infrared allows the farmer to see the difference between healthy and unhealthy plants, normally not visible to the human eye. Crops can be surveyed at any time, enabling rapid identification of problems and help with crop spraying. In Haryana drones, aerial sprayed pesticides to control locust swarms that were damaging crops in several districts
- They deliver Post in countries like Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine. In the US, drones deliver packages for courier companies.
- Lockdown – Police relied on drones to keep tabs on people’s movement during the lockdown. This helped prevent the buildup of crowds during the lockdown. They are useful in situations where physical contact needs to be avoided. Delivering medical supplies to hot spots and disinfecting public spaces using sprayers without risk of contamination for health workers are other uses of drones. They were used to check the movement of people and vehicles in high-density areas in Bangalore.
- Tracking suspects – When a terrorist hides on the roof, it becomes difficult for the ground units to know where the enemy is. Having an eye in the sky provides crucial intelligence and guides the ground units to favorable positions. They also help identify suspects and what weapons they are carrying. Customs and Border Protection forces use drones that can launch on their own, locate and monitor multiple targets on the ground without any human intervention. Last year camera drones were used by the police and security forces in the violence-affected neighborhoods of east Delhi and played a crucial role in checking further escalation of tension following the violence around the CAA bills.
- Traffic Management – They are incredibly useful in managing traffic during rush hour or during crowded events. Ground units cannot assess reasons for backed-up traffic from the ground. They can quickly assess the situation, figure out the solution, and manage the issue easily. They also monitor vehicle speeds and inform ground units.
- Search and rescue during disasters – Drones were used in Kerala for locating missing persons during disasters. They are particularly useful at night when fitted with thermal cameras that seek out heat signatures. After natural disasters, ground units might find reaching affected areas difficult. It can also be difficult to get manned aircraft into hazardous areas without risking the pilots. Drones can identify stranded people more quickly than ground units. They are also used to deliver medical supplies and other necessities, like rescue ropes and life jackets. In Russia, following an Arctic oil spill drones were sent to monitor the disaster area from the air.
- Seizing illegal drones – Police drones can identify illegal and unregistered ones that might be dangerous to the public. Many private operators do not have the proper training and licensing necessary to fly their drones on public property. Terrorists and drug smugglers have started using drones for their illegal operations. Accidental harm can also occur from a drone that is out of control. In India, there exists a healthy demand for trained drone pilots in both defenses and civil areas.
- The June 27 attack was the first-ever offensive use of drones to target an Indian military facility. Small drones were used to target the Jammu air force station causing two low-intensity explosions. Over 300 drones and unidentified flying objects have been sighted along the volatile border with Pakistan after the August 5, 2019 abrogation of Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The technology used in Sunday’s drone strikes clearly indicates “state-support” and involvement of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lt General DP Pandey, Corps Commander of the 15 Corps said in Srinagar. Last month China gave 50 armed drones to Pakistan for high altitude areas
- Last December, in Gurdaspur of Punjab, Pakistan used drones to drop weapons including machine guns, hand grenades, and cartridges. More than 60 drone sightings have been reported by the BSF, Punjab Police, and the people of the state in the last 20 months. Terrorists and smugglers choose them since they fly at low altitudes and cannot be detected by radar.
- During the India-China conflict, Pakistan was procuring medium-altitude, long-endurance drones from China in bulk. Pakistan deployed these UAVs at the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir to create further unrest.
- Punjab Police on Friday seized two highly sophisticated Chinese-made drones and arrested two smugglers belonging to a narco-terror module involved in the smuggling of weapons and narcotics across the India-Pakistan border. The drones were capable of traveling two-three km on either side of the border and were being launched from the Indian side to fly into Pakistan to pick up the contraband.
- Last month, Yemen’s Houthi militia confirmed that it launched “five ballistic missiles” and “five bomb-laden drones” at two airports and a military site in Saudi Arabia. In March, they confirmed attacking Saudi Aramco facilities with more missiles
- A drone strike targeted a military base housing US forces in the Baghdad International airport area. The drone dropped bombs hitting the outer fence of the military base.
Sri Lanka had suspended the operation of all pilotless aircraft including drones since last May following the Easter Sunday terror attacks in April which killed over 250 people.
- The Indian Navy has the Sea Guardian drone, a version of the armed predator ones, to maintain vigil over the vast stretch of the Indian Ocean region. They can fly for 37 hours at a stretch, monitoring every movement in the high seas. There are over 100 warships at any given point of time in the Indian Ocean. All the four Quadrilateral or Quad members comprising Australia, Japan, India, and the US have been weaponized recently.
- After the 27th June attack, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief G Satheesh Reddy said that the counter-drone technology developed by his organization could provide the armed forces with the capability to swiftly detect, tackle and destroy small drones that pose a security threat. They can be used for jamming hostile drones and also has a laser-based kill system. The radar system offers 360-degree coverage with detection of micro-drones when they are 4km away, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors for detection up to 2 km, and a radio frequency (RF) detector to detect RF communication up to 3 km
- Defense sources are interested in the Israeli anti-drone SMASH 2000 Plus systems that are mounted on rifles and can target drones flying at high speeds. The Indian Navy has ordered these defense systems, while the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force will soon. This helps security personnel manually spot and bring them down when they get too close.
- Also Read : World UFO Day