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Aerial Drones in Future Wars: A Conceptual Perspective

Group Captain Atul Pant is a serving member of the Indian Air Force. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • Occasional Paper No. 57

    Unmanned systems or drones are fast making way into military operations, be it in air, and on land or the sea. Their advantages range from remote operations to reduced response times, scalable responses, reduced costs, and increased effectiveness in almost the entire spectrum of military operations, including unarmed roles and peacetime tasks such as surveillance and humanitarian assistance in disaster relief. Modern disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, miniaturised electronics, composites, etc., are taking the capabilities of unmanned systems to new highs and increasing autonomy in their usage by turning them into smart and intelligent machines. Aerial drones are the most crucial members of the drone family that are already playing crucial armed and unarmed roles in many militaries. With further advancement of technology, their role in warfare is set to increase exponentially. In future, new generation aerial drones will be at the centre stage of military operations in warfare, in both lethal and non-lethal roles.

    In light of the new capabilities of aerial drones, this paper analyses their future evolution. It highlights their centricity and indispensability for future warfare, including their role, while keeping possible challenges and their current developmental trajectory with major global powers in sight. The paper also reflects on India's position vis-à-vis drone development programmes and highlights key takeaways.

    About the Author

    Gp Capt Atul Pant is a serving member of the Indian Air Force with 28 years of service and has served in various capacities in the IAF, including instructional tenures and as staff at Air Headquarters. He is currently a research fellow at MP-IDSA.

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