Drones set to assist cops in Naxal operations

[In another implementation of the highly-touted unmanned drone technology, India is planning to spy from the sky what they cannot get on the ground.  The uses of these remote-controlled “flying camera” devices has spread worldwide, and has been utilized in many operations where innocent people have been falsely identified and targeted–and, in many cases, killed by armed UAV’s or by armed forces who have been provided with fragmentary and often unclear drone imagery.  The news report, below, did not indicate if the drone was manufactured and supplied by the US or by Israel–the two major UAV manufacturers. — Frontlines ed.]
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, TNN | Feb 6, 2012
Drones set to assist cops in Naxal operations
An UAV is likely to be pressed into service in the Visakha agency and the border districts of Andhra to help in intelligence gathering.

HYDERABAD: An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone is likely to be pressed into service in the Visakha agency and the border districts of the state to help in intelligence gathering on a real-time basis. The UAV base will be set up at Madurapuddi near Rajahmundry.

A senior official of Special Intelligence Branch (SIB), an elite anti-Maoist wing, told TOI that, about two months back, a UAV was used on an experimental basis in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring Chhattisgarh and the results were positive enough for the drone to be introduced in anti-Maoist operations. Over the last few months, Maoists have stepped up their activities in the Visakha agency and in Vizianagaram.

“Already, the UAV has been tested in Warangal and certain districts of Chhattisgarh… It can be operationalised any day,” an intelligence officer said. The UAV, sponsored by the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) and procured at a cost of Rs 30 crore, might be used in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh but will have its base in Madurapuddi. “Our role is to mainly provide infrastructure for the setting up of the UAV base in Madurapuddi. However, Andhra Pradesh police has no direct role in the operation of the UAV since states which want to use it have to put in a request to the MHA,” sources said.

The UAV helps capture images even in dense forest areas and relays them in real-time to the base for security forces to be speedily mobilised.

Intelligence officials said that the UAV would be used during operations in Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Khammam, Visakhapatnam and the Andhra-Orissa Border.

India: Counter Insurgency forces are mis-directed by Israeli surveillance drones, highly over-rated

[As imperialist and reactionary governments have placed exaggerated reliance on drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAV’s) for remote-controlled surveillance and  bombing missions, the growing number of civilian casualties (“collateral damage”) from armed missions (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), and confused surveillance intelligence (as reported below, and elsewhere) is generating growing doubts in counterinsurgency circles about this supposedly accurate tool.  They have invested a lot in the promise of this weapon, so they do not want to give it up.  —  Frontlines ed.]

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by Yatish Yadav, India Today, in  New Delhi, January 3, 2012

Images provided by drones are not actionable since it cannot penetrate foliage.

Heron drone proves a dud in tracking Maoists in Chattisgarh

In the second week of December, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flew over the Maoist-hit areas of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh, picking up images of village dwellings and human movement.

At the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) control room the information was treated as a major breakthrough since the drones deployed in the area had so far failed to provide sufficient intelligence inputs.

The state and paramilitary forces were also convinced that the images were of a Naxal camp. An operation was immediately planned. Surprise and speed were to be the key elements.

The operation was to be similar in nature to the ones successfully undertaken by the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A surrendered Maoist was also quizzed to clear the doubts about the target location.

Armed with the visuals provided by the Heron drone, a team of two units, comprising paramilitary was dispatched on foot to encircle and sanitize Teriwal village in Dantewada.

Another 125 personnel were to be air dropped at the assembly area which was some kilometres away from the presumed Naxal camp at Teriwal, as was indicated by the footage relayed by the UAV.

But on December 19, an air force MI-17 helicopter with armed personnel on board came under fire while it was carrying out its 10th sortie. Two shots hit the rotor of the helicopter. The men had a lucky escape.

The sudden attack on the chopper caught the forces off guard. The UAV images clearly did not provide any indication of Maoist movement in the area, which was chosen to drop security personnel and was far away from the presumed rebel camp.

The drone image virtually led the forces into a trap. The suspicion about the images grew when it was discovered that the presumed Naxal camp was a nondescript village.

“Several huts and human movement were captured by the UAV cameras in Teriwal village. So it was presumed that it could be a Naxal camp,” a government source said.

Chhattisgarh inspector general of police (Bastar range) T. J. Longkumer said: “Given all the factors, the operation was successful. I will not be able to comment on the UAV images. But it is very difficult to differentiate between a Naxal hideout and a normal settlement.” Continue reading