Normally I try to avoid writing stories about military drone use, generally speaking there are negative undertones that are hard to avoid, however in this case I have to make an exception. Why? For two reasons, first, some of the drone technology in question is pretty impressive, and second, I was intrigued by what seems like a bit of a pattern of drone incursions
In a little over three years from now, a cutting-edge drone made by a Noida-based start-up may be able to fly 65,000 feet over the town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and remain in the air for no less than three weeks at a time. From this lofty perch in near-earth orbit, the drone, which doesn’t have a name as yet, will be able to monitor Chinese military movements in the city of Shigatse in Tibet, more than 200 kilometres away, 24 hours a day. It could, in effect, replace surveillance satellites, which need to expend their limited reserves of internal fuel if they are to be positioned over an area of interest to capture high-resolution images.
Developed by NewSpace Research and Technologies, the new drone is the first private sector aircraft to be designed in India. All research and development of the aircraft was done in-house, which is being validated by aerospace major Boeing. The first flight of the aircraft, which falls in the category of a HAPS or High Altitude Pseudo Satellite, is scheduled for 2019.
We’ve discussed HAPS on this blog before (remember the Zephyr?), so the acronym may be familiar if you are a regular reader. While still in development, in India, there are some pretty high hopes for this new drone.
Project developers at NewSpace have told NDTV that their high-altitude drones “will be an ideal platform which will exploit intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities using interchangeable payloads.” In simple terms, a variety of pods on the drone will be able to beam still or moving images day or night through infrared (night-vision) or hyperspectral imagery.” Hyperspectral images provide immensely more detail than normal cameras which acquire images associated with only the primary colours — red, green and blue. Other than military intelligence applications, images like this can be used commercially “to help in disaster management, homeland security and smart city management. They will be useful in efficiently managing traffic, roadways and the railways.”
Timing being everything, Newsweek just recently reported on a tangentially related topic; according to their article an Indian drone invaded China’s airspace.
The Chinese military has claimed that an Indian drone invaded China’s airspace before it crash-landed near a disputed border region.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua carried a report on Thursday in which Zhang Shuili, deputy head of the combat bureau of the Western Theater Command’s joint staff department, said: “India’s move has infringed upon China’s territorial sovereignty, and we are strongly dissatisfied with and opposed to this.”
The claims do not include details about the timing or specific location of the incident. The department’s jurisdiction includes areas on China’s border with India and Bhutan.
For their part, the Indian government responded to the incident by claiming “technical difficulties.”
“An Indian UAV, which was on a regular training mission inside the Indian territory, lost contact with the ground control due to some technical problem and crossed over the LAC [Line of Actual Control] in the Sikkim sector,” the Indian military said in a statement quoted in Indian media. The northeastern Indian state of Sikkim borders China via Tibet, as well as Bhutan and Nepal.
However, China may not be buying it.
“China asks India to immediately stop its activities of using unmanned aircraft near the border, and to work alongside China to maintain the border area’s peace and tranquility,” Shuang said, quoted in Reuters.
An incident like this would be notable, even if it was a one time event, however, it seems like India has a bit of a history of “accidental” drone incursions.
October 30, 2017: Pakistan Army claims to shot down an Indian “spy drone” in Rakhchikri sector along the Line of Control (LoC) after it entered its airspace. Pakistan military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor took to Twitter to say the “wreckage” of the drone had been held by the army. Ghafoor tweeted, “Indian quadcopter spying across LoC in Rakhchikri sector shot down by Pak Army shooters.”
The images showed a DJI Phantom drone which is among the most popular drones, easily available across the world.
November 19, 2016: The Pakistan Army claims to have shot down an Indian quadcopter which it alleged had “intruded” into Pakistani territory across
the heavily-guarded LoC.
“Indian quadcopter has been shot down by Pakistani troops at 1645 (hrs), fell in Pak territory & taken over by Pak troops,” army spokesman Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa had tweeted.
He claimed the drone had “intruded 60 metres into the Pakistan side of LoC” and its debris “fell near Agahi Post in Rakhchakri Sector”.
July 15, 2015: Pakistan military claims to have shot down an Indian “spy drone”, alleging that it was being used for aerial photography near the
LoC. It had also said that the drone was “brought down for violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity”. However, India had dismissed the claim. “Some reports of a drone crash in PoK are being referred to. No drone or UAV crash of the Indian Army has taken place,” a spokesperson of the Indian Army had said.
Is there a pattern? Its obviously impossible for me to answer, but it makes for an interesting mystery nonetheless.
A drones like this new Indian HAPS is yet another example of how drones disruptive drones are. Drones are making big waves in a number of industries, creating new opportunities for trained drone operators. Get trained by enrolling in drone school today. Drone Universities offers FAA Part 107 training and much more. Learn from the best, learn from Drone Universities.