UAV-generated images now ‘routinely’ obtained in Maoist areas

The country’s premier scientific intelligence agency, National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), is ‘routinely’ processing data generated by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from Maoist-controlled areas and sending those to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) headquarters here, both police and paramilitary sources confirmed. NTRO’s main station in Hyderabad is receiving the satellite images and other data, including audio, and sending those to the CRPF over the last few months. Field level commanders of the CRPF are instructed on the basis of the information gathered from the UAVs.


While the process ‘to regularise’ the gathering of information using UAVs, parallel to human intelligence, started about a year back, the killing of tribals in Bijapur in late June has expedited the process.

“Now we can get a very clear picture of the training centres, movement of the insurgents and camp’s location,” said a senior officer. However, there is scepticism at the local level over the NTRO’s information gathering system. About a dozen UAVs, with flying stations in Hyderabad, are now operating in south Chhattisgarh’s Bastar area. The UAVs capture the movement of the rebels on ground and pass the satellite data to the NTRO. The images are passed almost in real time to the CRPF’s field commanders. Some of the CRPF’s signal officers are trained by the NTRO to read the satellite generated data, sources informed. The previous Director General of Chhattisgarh Police, Viswaranjan, said that during his tenure a few years ago 10 UAVs of the Indian Air Force were used to monitor the area. “We got good input even from Abuj Marh but the ground force was not equipped enough for operation on the basis of available data.

Eventually the Air Force withdrew the UAVs. Now the ground force is better equipped to act on the basis of the satellite images,” he said. The officers have not divulged whether any operation has been carried out on the basis of the data generated by the UAVs so far. There is a Global Positioning System also in place now to track the movement of the CRPF personnel in the forest. However, the Chhattisgarh police are sceptical about the ‘effectiveness’ of the UAV-generated information.

One of the top officials told The Hindu that it was difficult to act on the basis of the satellite images. “Receiving images does not mean we can act. We have to check the logistics at the ground level. This system is still not capable of replacing the human intelligence at the ground level,” the officer said. However, the human intelligence and UAV generated images can be ‘slowly integrated to get the best results,’ the officer said.

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