In BSF of the future, balloons with cameras, unmanned aircraft


Balloons floating above the Sunderbans marshes on the Bangladesh border, unmanned aerial vehicles scanning the land border with Pakistan. These are part of the BSF's vision for the future, each fitted with a camera to relay images back to the paramilitary force, which hopes to use new technology that will vary from border to border, depending on what best suits the area's features.

At Sir Creek in Gujarat, for instance, the plan is to use what is known as SOPs, or stabilised observation platforms, rather than the balloons planned for the Sunderbans in west Bengal.

The shift from a "one size fits all" concept, which marks a "paradigm shift" according to BSF officers, comes after a visit by a team to Israel last month to study the border management systems there. The team met officials of the Israel defence forces, Shabak (Israel's internal security wing) and its border security wing. Its vision includes not only technologies in use in Israel but also some in use by the US Army in Afghanistan.

"We are taking a quantum jump from just fencing and putting floodlights along the border areas," said a senior BSF officer. "We have around 400 kilometres of a challenging border on the west and around 1,100 km on the east. We are looking at emerging technology."

The BSF has submitted a report to the home ministry, which has floated a global expression of interest asking companies to come up with border management solutions. At least 39 companies have bid so far, including some from Israel.

"There is no plan for any integrated centre yet," said an officer. "We don't want to control everything from our Delhi headquarters. The company headquarters near the respective borders will be the nodal centres for all activities. The data is too huge to be controlled from Delhi."

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