India offers huge potential for both civilian and military use of UAVs
 
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UAVs Fly High

India offers huge potential for both civilian and military use of UAVs

Aditya Kakkar
 

According to the data provided by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India was the top importer (22.5 per cent) of the world’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from 1985 to 2014. During the same period, India imported nearly 61 per cent of its UAVs from Israel, including its first drone in 1998. Also, while we use the terms UAVs and drones interchangeably, the fact of the matter is that they are not quite the same.

The Scientific American states, ‘a drone is an unmanned aircraft that can fly autonomously — that is, without a human in control. For example, consider an aircraft that is under the control of a remote pilot for most but not all of a mission. If the pilot switches to a GPS-guided autopilot mode for a few minutes, does the aircraft become a “drone” for that subset of its flight, and then lose that designation once the autopilot is switched off? Or does the presence of the GPS autopilot, regardless of how much it is actually used, make it a drone?’ These are complex questions but regardless, India is betting high on the use of UAVs in both civilian and military applications.

The civilian potential of UAVs is immense as they can increase productivity across sectors. From agricultural mapping to crowd management, they can integrate with existing and new aerospace platforms. The most important civilian use of drones is perhaps in disaster management roles. The Nepal earthquake of 2015 is also widely remembered for the way in which UAVs helped identify injured people and help them provide relief. They also helped in clearly mapping out safe places, clean water, health centres etc. As their applicative complexity increases, drones will go on to replace human labour. According to a report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2016, commercial applications for drones will replace USD 127 billion worth of services and labour over the next four years.

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