Pakistan PM Imran Khan has given the green light to the country’s first drone policy to boost the local industry and to usher in a new era of automation. The country also wants to rope in its allies China and Turkey to develop its drone industry.
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Islamabad recognizing the significance of drones in various areas would help facilitate the peaceful and research-based use of drone technology, which will also ultimately benefit its defense sector.
Imran Khan last week directed the authorities concerned to set up a committee to formulate a legislative and regulatory body that would expand a safer and legalized use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in diverse sectors. He said the drone technology will greatly benefit the country’s agriculture and urban planning sectors and maintain law and order situation.
In a meeting with the minister for science and technology Fawad Chaudhry in Islamabad, Khan said his government was giving increased priority to the evolving trends in automation and how it was changing the way of life around the world. The minister announced the decision in his tweet saying the policy will also allow the import of sophisticated drones.
PM @ImranKhanPTI has given go ahead to formulate first ever Drone Policy of Pakistan, the new policy will allow Drone production and specially agriculture Drone manufacturing industry will get huge boost, Import of sophisticated drones will also be allowed
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) December 22, 2020
The drone policy is seen as a game-changing step in encouraging the private sector to boost the country’s capability in the 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 sensitive security situation in the country. However, the new policy aims to change that and encourage private investors to explore new technologies and foster foreign partnerships in automation technologies.
The government is also forming a Drone Regulatory Authority (DRA) for effective use of the 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.
Easier Said Than Done
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.