The system will comprise thermal imagers and optical cameras to provide requisite inputs for decision-making

As part of the ongoing efforts to beef up maritime security, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing a new electro-optical system for coastal and harbour surveillance.

The system, being worked upon by Instruments Research and Development Establishment, Dehradun, will comprise thermal imagers and optical cameras to detect and track targets and provide requisite inputs for decision-making.

The all weather, day and night capable system will be installed at strategic locations along the coastline, including vicinity to harbours and ports, to monitor shipping traffic as well as other sea-faring vessels. It will be controlled remotely and will be operated by the Indian Coast Guard.

According to DRDO sources, the electro-optical system’s detection range is expected to be up to 25 kilometers or more and it should be able to identify a target at a distance of at least eight kilometers, besides being able to auto-track multiple targets as small as a 5-meter long boat.

India has a coastline of 7,516 km along the mainland and islands covering 13 states and union territories. Besides major densely populated cities, a large number of strategic and commercially vital installations as naval bases, nuclear plants, missile and satellite launch centres, ship building docks, oil refineries, industrial units and harbours are located on or adjacent to the coast. There are 13 major and over 200 minor ports in India that handle 90 per cent of the trade.

India’s coastline have always been vulnerable to anti-national activities like smuggling of weapons, explosives, contraband and narcotics as well as infiltration of terrorists. In 1993, the sea route was reportedly used to smuggle explosives for the blasts in Mumbai wile in 2008, it was used to infiltrate terrorists for the terror attacks in the same city.

After the 2008 attacks, coastal security was reviewed by the central government and several new measures were recommended that were to be implemented in a phased manner. Some of them are still hanging fire due to administrative, technical or financial issues.

Peacetime coastal security within Indian territorial waters is the responsibility of the Indian Coast Guard. A surveillance mechanism, called Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN), comprising of a chain of static sensors having radars, automatic identification system, day/night cameras and weather sensors at 46 locations along the coastline and Islands has been established. In addition there are 34 radar stations for surveillance.

The Indian Navy has established four Joint Operations Centres (JOC) at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair, from which all coastal security operations are coordinated. These are manned round the clock by naval and coast guard teams and are also networked with state police and other agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau, Customs and ports authorities.