Last Updated: May 2023 (UAVs)


This article deals with the ‘UAVs.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


  • UAV is an aerial vehicle without a pilot on board.  
  • UAVs can be remote-controlled aircraft (e.g. flown by a pilot on the ground) or fly autonomously based on the program. 

Applications of UAVs

Applications of UAV
  • UAVs can be remotely controlled. Therefore, it saves any loss of soldiers. 
  • In modern warfare, Armies use them in operations to have a view from above and coordinate the movement of Soldiers. 
  • Police are using them during rioting and monitoring people’s assembly during Strikes. E.g., Chandigarh Police  
  • UAVs can be used for real-time surveillance of rugged terrain.
  • Companies like Facebook plan to use it for internet delivery (Aquila).
  • Logistic companies are making drones to deliver products. E.g., Zomato is working on a hybrid drone for food delivery. Earlier, Amazon too tested such drones. 
  • Healthcare: Drones can be used for improving the delivery of medicines. E.g., the Telangana government’s ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project under which medicines (especially vaccines) will be transported from district headquarters to PHCs using a drone named Marut.
  • Agriculture: Drones have application in agro-management, especially in spraying pesticides, crop nutrients etc. In an experiment conducted in Brazil, the use of drones helped in reducing the use of pesticides.


  • Regulatory loopholes: There are policy and legal loopholes wrt the regulation of drones in India.
  • Quality Control: Most of the drones are imported in India.
  • Privacy Issues: Drones can collect images and data of common citizens infringing their right to privacy.
  • Use by Terrorists: These drones can be easily procured and used by terrorists for carrying out their nefarious activities. For example, drones are to drop weapons and drugs along the Punjab border. 
  • Issue with Air Traffic Management: Drones cant be detected by conventional radars and puts conventional air traffic in danger.

UAVs as a threat to National Security

Drones have changed the ways wars are fought and have posed new challenges to security agencies.

Recent developments in this regard include

  1. In 2021, Kashmiri terrorists dropped IEDs over Indian Airforce Base using UAVs.
  2. Pakistan use drones to smuggle drugs to India.
  3. In 2021, Azerbaijan defeated Armenia’s much more potent force using drones, which have completely changed the ways warfare is fought.
  4. Iran supported Shia Houthi rebels attacked oil facilities of Saudi Aramco and oil refinery in UAE, bypassing sophisticated missile defence systems.
  5. The US killed Iranian General Qasim Soleimani in a drone attack.

Ways to defend drone attacks 

The best way to defend is the installation of Anti-Drone systems. These includes

  1. Foreign Anti-Drone systems such as Iron Dome (of Israel), S-400 (of Russia), DroneHunter (of USA) etc.
  2. India is also making indigenous anti-drone systems. These include
    • DRDO’s ‘Anti-Drone System” can neutralize detecting the drones in the range of 3 km and destroy using laser technology.
    • Grene Robotics of Hyderabad has developed Anti-Drone System named ‘Indrajaal’. 
    • Naval Anti Drone System (NADS): First indigenously developed comprehensive anti-drone system developed by DRDO.  It has capabilities for both hard kill (attacking vital drone components) and soft kill (misguiding, signal jamming etc.). 
    • Israel’s SMASH 2000 Plus System: Being used by Indian Navy, this system is installed mainly on assault rifles providing hard kill option.

Drone Rules, 2021

  • Guidelines by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for use of civil drones.
  • Places restrictions on operating drones in certain areas (Red Zones). 
  • Provides for registration and licensing of drones and training of operators. 
  • It follows the principle of No Permission – No Take-off (NPNT) and permission is required before every operation of a drone.

Drones of India

#1. Indian Drones

1.1. Rustom

  • Rustom is developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of Bangalore under DRDO.
  • It comes in two versions – Rustom 1 and Rustom 2.
  • Use: Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR

Features of Rustom

  Rustom-1 Rustom-2
Weight 95 Kg 350 Kg
Endurance 12-15 hour 24 hour
Range 250 km 250 km
Speed 125-175 km/hr 125-175 km/hr

1.2 Nishant

  • It is developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of Bangalore under DRDO.
  • Primary use: Intelligence gathering, surveillance, target designation and damage assessment.
  • Features
    1. Endurance: 4 hours and 30 minutes.
    2. It has a range of 100 Km.
    3. It can reach up to a speed of 216 km/h.
    4. It is launched using a catapult and doesn’t need a runway.
    5. It has day and night flying capability.

1.3 Panchi

  • It is the wheeled version of Nishant. 

1.4 Lakshya-I

  • Lakshya-1 is pilotless target aircraft.
  • It is manufactured by HAL.
  • Primary use: Used to perform discrete aerial reconnaissance of battlefield and target acquisition.
  • Features
    1. Maximum Speed: 0.7 Mach
    2. Range: 150 km
    3. Its launch is rocket-assisted, while recovery is made using a two-stage parachute.
  • Later, the Nirbhay missile was also made from its design.


  • It is a Mini-UAV. 
  • It is developed by DRDO.
  • Its use includes following
    1. CRPF will use it to fight Naxals. 
    2. BSF in counter-insurgency. 
  • It has the following specifications
    1. Range of 4 to 5 km.
    2. Endurance of 40 to 60 minutes.
    3. It weighs around 6 kg.
Indian UAVs

#2. Foreign UAVs bought by India

2.1 Guardian Drone

  • India has bought  Guardian Drones (naval & unarmed version of Predator UAVs).
  • It has provided enhanced Indian capabilities in maritime defence.  
Guardian Drone

2.2 Heron TP

  • It is an Israeli Armed UAV.
  • India has bought this UAV.  
  • It is India’s first armed drone, significantly expanding the aerial offensive capabilities of the military.
Heron TP

2.3 Harpy and Harop

  • These UAVs are bought from Israel.

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