Insurgents buying drones from e-commerce platforms causes a direct threat to the national security

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Recently, a news broke out that arms and drug smugglers in Punjab have been using drones purchased allegedly from a free classified website. On the one hand, the government of India is trying to put multiple layers of advanced fences on the India-Pak border to completely prohibit cross border infiltration and smuggling, on the other hand, the insurgents have been changing their modus operandi based on new and advanced technologies such as the use of drones.

The whole case opened up when the Punjab Police arrested an Indian Army soldier –Naik Rahul Chauhan and two other people allegedly on the charges of cross-border smuggling of weapons and drugs using GPS-fitted drones. The police seized two China-made drones along with a dozen of drone batteries along with INSAS rifle magazine, a walkie-talkie and INR 6.22 lakh cash from them.

One of the two drones is a DJI Matrice 600 PRO Hexacopter while the other one is DJI Inspire Quadcopter. The former was found at an abandoned government dispensary in a village in Amritsar, while the other one was recovered from a house in Karnal, Haryana which is said to be the home of a friend of Naik Chauhan. This development has raised grave concern in the eyes of security agencies in India.

During interrogation, Amit Chauhan told the police that he purchased a partially damaged Aspire 02 model for INR 1.5 lakh form OLX and sold it for INR 2.75 lakh after some repair work. He also brought DJI Matrice 600 for INR 3.20 lakh in Pune and sold it to an Amritsar-based smuggler for INR 5.35 lakh.

Earlier, on 25th September 2019, a new method for smuggling weapons and narcotics was exposed when Punjab Police recovered a half-burnt drone from a rice mill in Punjab. Through the charred drone, the arrested ‘Khalistan Zindabad Force’ terrorists confessed, they received 5 AK 47 rifles, 16 magazines, a Chinese made 30 bore pistol, two mobile phones, five satellite phones and counterfeit currency worth INR 10 lakhs from Pakistan.

In India, to fly a drone weighing above 250g, a person needs to take three permissions issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), wireless planning co-ordination wing of the department of communications and the director-general of foreign trade. To evade the procedure, you can find people in the market who are ready to sell Chinese drones (at least 40 per cent cheaper) without a bill, to evade prosecution.

Easy to fly drones are readily available in India, procuring of drones from e-commerce websites such as OLX had made the process for the insurgents an easy task. Hence, it becomes crucial for the authorities to regulate the kind of technologies that can be sold on different e-commerce platforms and to what extent.

While all the other drones can be operated from mobile applications, Chinese drones, on the other hand, route the data through the Chinese server. This concerns the Indian authorities for potential security risks which result in a reluctance by the Indian agencies to give clearances to China-made drones to operate in India.

DGCA estimates that Indian drone market is expected to touch $886 million by the next year, which means that the threat of illegal possession and operation of drones is only going to increase.

The loopholes in the regulations in relation to drones operation and transactions can prove to be catastrophic for national security and public order that can possess a direct threat to the national sovereignty of India. There is an URGENT need on the part of the authorities to formulate holistic and well-defined drone-related policies. In addition, the country should also focus on strengthening by developing its own homemade anti-UAV defence system to eliminate any illegal drone that is operating in the territory of India.


Last modified: February 4, 2020

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