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Author: R Swaminathan
Publisher: Observer Research Foundation
ISBN/UPC (if available): N/A
India currently operates close to 50 drones in various military, reconnaissance and intelligence gathering configurations, a number more than that of France, Germany and Italy combined. Internationally certified figures show that India has the second largest number of acknowledged drones in the world after the United States of America. Yet the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) does not yet have an official policy towards the civilian application or uses of drones.
Nor does India have any enabling administrative and institutional framework for the different kinds of drones that have started appearing in the skies. Drones pose unique policy challenges that transcend conventional domains of national security, safety, consumer technology, aviation, privacy and business practices. Drones also fundamentally question our long-held notions of nationhood, sovereignty and geographical boundaries, as well as our frameworks of geopolitics and statecraft.
This paper will first explore the rapidly emerging global landscape of drones to understand and analyze the various ways in which these autonomously and remotely piloted aerial vehicles are integrating themselves with various aspects of military and civilian domains. Second, the paper will outline the global policy implications of such a rapid proliferation.
In almost exclusively equating drones with military operations, its increasing diversity in terms of civilian applications—from micro-drones delivering pizzas to intelligently network smart drones mapping land resources—is not given adequate attention. This leads to several policy blind spots.
Finally, the paper will identify specific policy issues related to military and civilian drones that the Indian establishment must address in a comprehensive manner so that the future policy and regulatory environment becomes an enabling framework rather than a mere reactive system of ad-hoc decisions.