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After attack, drones banned in Srinagar

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has banned the sale, possession and use of drones in Srinagar, around a week after two blasts — believed to be from a drone strike — targeted an Indian Air Force (IAF) station in Jammu and triggered a security scare
By Ashiq Hussain, Srinagar
PUBLISHED ON JUL 05, 2021 12:24 AM IST

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has banned the sale, possession and use of drones in Srinagar, around a week after two blasts — believed to be from a drone strike — targeted an Indian Air Force (IAF) station in Jammu and triggered a security scare.

Srinagar deputy commissioner Mohammad Aijaz on Saturday issue the order, outlawing the sale, possession, storage, use and transportation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drones in the district. The order said the ban was necessitated by the “recent episodes of misuse of drones posing threat to security infrastructure”.

Those who already possess drone cameras or UAVs the district have been asked to submit their devices at their local police stations. The order did not specify a deadline. Additionally, those who want to use the drones for mapping and surveillance for agricultural, environmental conservation and the disaster management “shall inform”the local police stations before using the devices, it noted.

“Keeping in view the security situation apart from concerns of breach of privacy, nuisance and trespass, it is extremely dangerous to let unmanned aerial vehicles wander around in skies within the territorial jurisdiction of district Srinagar,” the Srinagar DC’s order said.

The Jammu attack was the first-ever offensive use of drones to target an Indian military facility. On June 27, two blasts within minutes of each other damaged a building and injured two personnel at the technical airport — part of which is operated by the IAF. Since then, security forces have reported many sightings of drones in the region — including near other military facilities.

The incidents prompted the armed forces to step up security as top government officials and military leaders went into a huddle to discuss the challenge. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week chaired a meeting of top ministers including home minister Amit Shah and defence minister Rajnath Singh to discuss the long pending policy on the management of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and the ways to deal with the issue, people familiar of the matter had told HT.

Srinagar hosts a set of strategic military installations and buildings,including the headquarters of the Army’s Chinar Corps.

Drones and small UAVs have become increasingly popular for aerial photography and videography by filmmakers, tourism stakeholders, professional landscape photographers and photojournalists world over.

“With a view to secure aerial space near vital installations and highly populated areas, it is imperative to discontinue the use of drones in all social and cultural gatherings to eliminate any risk of injury to life and damage to property,” said the order, which has been enforced under Section 144 (that prohibits certain activities or actions in the area where it is imposed) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Of late, security forces said Pakistan-based terrorists have started using drones from across the Line of Control to smuggle arms, ammunition, drugs and money into Jammu and Kashmir.

Last week, Indian Army chief General MM Naravane flagged the easy availability of UAVs – both to state and non-state actors – and said that building drones was similar to a “DIY project that can be tackled at home”. He added that forces are also working actively to adopt counter-drone technology to repel any attacks in the future.

The Srinagar district is the latest to announced such restrictions. The Rajouri district in Jammu too barred the use of drones or small UAVs on June 30.

Drones are governed by The Aircraft Act, 1934 and the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021 that already restrict flying the UAVs in prohibited areas that are within a distance of 3km from any civil, private and defence airports, military facilities, and state secretariats. The prohibition is also applicable within 2km from any strategic installations besides national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

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