By National News Desk
Islamabad: Pakistan PM Imran Khan has given the green light to the country’s first drone policy to boost the local industry and usher in a new era of automation. The country also wants to rope its allies, China and Turkey, to develop its drone industry.
Recognizing the importance of drones in various areas, Islamabad would help facilitate the peaceful and research-based use of drone technology, which will ultimately also benefit its defence sector.
Last week, Imran Khan directed the authorities concerned to set up a committee to set up a legislative and regulatory body to expand the safer and legal use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in various sectors. Drone technology, he said, will greatly benefit the agriculture and urban planning sectors of the country and will maintain the law and order situation.
Drone policy is seen as a game-changing step in encouraging the private sector to boost the country’s capabilities in related technologies, which will not only transform commercial activities but also secure the country’s borders.
Pakistan has traditionally prohibited the import and operation of drones in view of the country’s sensitive security situation. However, the new policy aims to change this and encourage private investors to explore new technologies and to foster foreign automation technology partnerships.
The government is also establishing a Drone Regulatory Authority (DRA) for the effective use of remote-control surveillance technology in various fields.
“The regulation would help Pakistan tap into the commercial drone market, which is expected to touch $43 billion by 2025 with an annual 20 percent growth rate,” Fawad was quoted by Gulf News as saying.
“To develop its drone industry, Pakistan looks forward to joint ventures with China and Turkey,” he added.
Although the legislation is aimed at effectively using drones in precision agriculture and for law enforcement for public safety, the breakthroughs will significantly foster the defense aspect of the drone technology. According to the minister, the country aims to also develop special drone units to help curb street crimes in cities such as Karachi.
However, the indigenous drone manufacturers have been crippled by excessive custom duties, permit requirements, and other duties that severely affect their production. The manufacturers are lobbying the government to ease such restrictions and offer direct support along with tax incentives to help it create a thriving ecosystem.
The industry continues to struggle since many of the components like engines, cameras, and sensors are imported because of unnecessary restrictions, leading to the illegal smuggling of such goods.
Experts in Pakistan now realize that unless the commercial sector is encouraged and supported the country can’t become a player in this field. In the defense sector, Pakistan has been importing its drones mainly from China, followed by Turkey and other countries.
Recently, the country procured 50 Wing Loong II armed drones from China, which according to the Chinese experts, “would be a nightmare for Indian ground formations in high-altitude areas” considering India has limited capability to respond to such new-age stand-off weapons.
The deal had earlier been to co-produce 48 armed drones as the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had claimed in a social media post on October 6, 2018.
However, it seems the joint production did not work out, and now the country is directly purchasing the armed drone, which is comparable to the American MQ-1 Predator. The acquisition is expected to give a significant boost to PAF’s capabilities against India.
Pakistan has a deep relationship with Turkey and has announced a number of technological collaborations with the Turkish defense companies.
The Turkish drones gained worldwide prominence for their performance in the Azerbaijan-Armenia war, in which the latter was trounced and defeated decisively. Reportedly, Pakistan aims to procure advanced Turkish drones, and talks of co-production have also been doing the rounds in the last few months.
The new drone policy, the experts believe, will usher in domestic innovation and proliferation of drones in Pakistan and ultimately help the country’s armed forces.