High above the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, it was but a sparkling light.The unidentified object was, however, bright enough to catch the attention of officers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force, who were on a recent patrol in the difficult high terrain along India’s disputed mountainous border with China.The bright speck, they knew, was out of place among the gently flickering stars that usually keep them company on cold night patrols.
The ITBP and military experts believe the sighting was only the latest confirmation of a military programme across the border that is revolutionising China’s surveillance capabilities — the country’s fast-expanding domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), or “drone”, industry.
The programme’s success was easier to spot in Beijing this week, where Chinese companies displayed a range of domestically-developed UAVs at an exhibition on police equipment and anti-terrorism technology.
Once reluctant to discuss the state of development of the country’s home-grown “drones”, Chinese authorities are increasingly showcasing the industry’s rapid progress, as well as looking for foreign markets.
At last year’s air-show in Zhuhai, foreign observers were left stunned by 25 UAVs that were displayed, at stages of development far more advanced than earlier thought.