Use of Artificial Intelligence Technology for Management of India’s Coastal Security

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India has a long coastline and large number of island territories entitling her vast coastal sea areas for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing ocean resources like fishing, ocean mining, drilling for oil and gas etc. Further, India is largely dependent on maritime trade for her development and prosperity. However, changing maritime threat scenario more so with the increase in the incidents of maritime terrorism has made the task of ensuring security of vital coastal installations, economic activities, coastal population etc a big challenge for its National security. The sheer size of India’s maritime domain, presence of numerous stakeholders and increasing trend of use of sea by the transnational terrorists for their activities makes the task of protection of coastal areas complex and difficult. Physical guarding of vast coastline like the land border is not viable. Similarly keeping surveillance over such vast areas is a equally challenging task. Advances in Artificial Technology (AI) has its effects being felt in enabling new military capabilities by enhancing capabilities across the spectrum ranging from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to offensive/defensive measures. Thus the innovative use of artificial intelligence technology can bring a big positive change in the management of India’s Coastal Security.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming a vital part of modern warfare. Highly advanced AI systems can be used for numerous military applications. Advanced Countries like USA and China are increasing their investments in AI technology as a major strategy to enhance national security. India has also been considering use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for its national security. It has been reported in media in 2018 that the Government has constituted Artificial Intelligence Task Force led by Tata Son’s Chairman in February 2018 to study the strategic implications of AI in national security perspective and in global context. The study group has submitted the report and accordingly a statement was also issued highlighting that AI is essentially a dual use technology and has the potential to have transformative impact on national security with its capability to provide military superiority. Coastal Security is one such area where AI has potential to have significant effect in enhancing capability of security forces in domain awareness as well as response mechanism.

Coastal Security has been in focus of attention for a decade post 26/11 terrorist attacks. The very basis of emphasis being given to secure our coasts has been its vulnerability to terrorist attack in the contemporary time. However the task of securing coastal areas is humongous because of its size and other constituents. India has vast coastline of 7517 km of which, the mainland coastline is 5423 km and the Island territories coastline is 2094 km. It has 1197 island territories located in the Arabian Sea and in the Bay of Bengal. Its vast coastline is studded with vital industrial hubs, large coastal population, 13 major ports, 176 minor ports and a huge Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) measuring over 2 million Sq Km. Further, Indian coasts are prosperous and home to large and growing proportion of the Indian population. Around 1/5th of the Indian population live along the coast. Three of the four metro cities are located along the Indian Coastline.

Further, India’s peace and prosperity is today inextricably linked to her commerce and economic boom. Approximately 95% of the country’s trade by volume and 70% by value are transported through sea. India’s economy has been growing at a rate of 7- 8% and is envisaged to grow in double digits in the coming years. Sustained economic growth as envisaged would also result in substantial increase in the shipping trade in terms of volume as well as value. This is feasible only in an environment which does not pose any kind of threat to free movement of shipping. However, 26/11 type terrorist attack has shown vulnerability of coastal areas in the contemporary time. Ten terrorists from Lashkar-e-Taiba reached Mumbai using the sea route and carried out 12 attacks across the city, killing as many as 159 people and fatally wounding more than 200. This incident has once again provided opportunity to review the state of security of India’s coastal areas.

Coastal Security Threats and Challenges

Sea has always been a lawless domain and even today it is barely policed. As a result, transnational terrorists see the potential of using the maritime spheres in a big way for their activities in the coming days. Potential of using maritime shipping and fishing activities in the coastal waters to conceal weapons or agents or to provide funding to support their operations have come to light and is going to only increase in the days ahead. Cases have also been reported where in acts of terrorism seek to cause economic losses, human causalities and environmental damage. Such acts of terrorism often have not only national but international ramifications. Incidents such as Limburg bombing, in Oct 2002 and the dense piracy activities off Somalia coast have clearly demonstrated that the International shipping is increasingly becoming vulnerable. Terrorists are also becoming emboldened in using sea for their nefarious activities and rise of terrorist activities over sea is clear indication of the same. Further, Coastal environment is very dynamic in nature and thereby poses a very complex scenario to deal with.

The major challenges in dealing with the dynamic nature of maritime environment are to detect, identify and react as soon as possible whenever a threat is detected. It is thus important to be aware of developing security scenario at all times. All this would require availability of information concerning presence of vessels along with other relevant details, intelligence inputs, presence of own assets in the vicinity in the area which can be directed to nuetralise emerging threats. Dense and unregulated fishing activities in our waters make the task of identifying unwanted elements that have merged amongst them very difficult. Identity documents carried by fishermen are varied and suspect and thus advantageous for non-state actors or terrorist.

Another important challenge is integration of large number of stakeholders of coastal security architecture like Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Police, State Administration, DG Shipping, Customs, Fisheries, Ports, Immigration authorities, merchant ships, warships, fishing vessels, Dhows, trawlers, etc. Keeping such a vast coastline safe and secure is essential to facilitate voluminous sea trade and other economic activities. However, the task of managing security over such vast coastal areas is humongous. One needs comprehensive security management strategies and solutions that adapt to and respond in real time.

Key Elements of Coastal Security Management

Intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and response capability are the main constituents of coastal security management. A classical security management process would involve collection of information, analysis of information, identification of threat, dissemination of information to concerned agencies, directing security forces to nuetralise the threat envisaged and its constant monitoring till the threat has been nuetralised. Today, all these activities can be easily facilitated in quick time with the help of advanced technology. Artificial Intelligence is the latest technology and is a rapidly growing field of technological development. AI would potentially have significant implications in enhancing coastal security. Advances made in AI technology provide opportunities for their innovative use in enhancing intelligence, surveillance, identification, reconnaissance and offensive/defensive response which is so vital in coastal security environment.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence is a subfield of computer science and is seen as an attempt to model aspects of human thought on computers. It can be any artificial system that performs tasks under varying and unpredictable circumstances, without significant human oversight. It is a system which may solve tasks requiring human like perception, cognition, planning, learning, communication or physical action. It has number of unique characteristics that make it an important technology in security arena like image recognition algorithms which can be trained to recognise terrorist activities in full motion video captured by UAVs and omni use technology which provides it potential to be integrated into virtually everything. An ideal AI system is envisaged to think like humans, thinks rationally, acts like humans and acts rationally.

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AI is considered to be particularly useful in intelligence as it can facilitate analysis of large sets of data made available. Advanced countries like USA, has initiated Project Maven whose phase I involves automatic intelligence processing in which the project team is incorporating computer vision and machine algorithms into intelligence collection cells that would scan through the remotely piloted aircraft footage and automatically identify hostile activity for targeting. It is intended to automate the work of human analysts who spent long hours for deciphering actionable intelligence and thereby make the process more efficient so that timely decisions can be arrived at to nuetralise the threat.

Applications of AI in Military Warfare

Applications of AI in military has seen significant growth from the beginning of 21st century because of its obvious advantage in terms reducing the risk of loss of life, enhancing overall efficiency, handling bulk of information, enabling speedy analysis, making automatic response, etc. Most of the advanced nations have been increasingly using AI to enhance their military capabilities in terms of situational awareness, Command and Control, communications, force readiness, intelligence, and data analysis.

Large volumes of data are being collected in order to generate situational awareness. AI systems could be used to combine data from multiple intelligence sources and prompt operators to items of interest. AI systems also could be used to generate tailored spoofing attacks to counter such sensors and processors. Thus AI-enabled sensors and processing could help make better sense of that information. Command and Control is a very important aspect of military warfare. Towards this, AI can help in processing of information faster and make better understanding of information obtained in a rapidly changing environment for the military leaders. AI may be used to fuse data from sensors in all to create a single source of information for decision makers. Through automation, orders can be relayed to their forces faster and more precisely. AI algorithms may also provide with probable courses of action based on real time analysis of battle space, which could enable faster adaptation to unfolding events.

AI may be used to any identify break in communication links caused by an adversary and immediately find alternative means to distribute information which is very critical in military warfare.. Another use of AI will be to help in better understanding of readiness of own forces. By analyzing large amounts of data, AI systems may be able to predict stress on the force in terms of men as well as machine like when equipment requires maintenance; when programs are likely to face schedule delays; and when service members are likely to suffer degraded performance or physical or psychological injuries. Such potential of AI would help military leaders to improve the readiness of their own forces.

Collection of information from numerous sources like smart devices, the Internet, human intelligence, videos, photographs, etc. would be impossible for humans to manually process and understand. AI tools can help analyze connections between data, point out the suspicious activity, identify trends, fuse disparate elements of data, map networks, and finally predict future behaviour. Thus, AI tools would greatly enhance capability in obtaining actionable intelligence. AI also has tremendous potential value in data analysis. AI systems can be used to track and analyze large amounts of data – including open-source data, and also look for indications and warning of suspicious activity. Anomaly detection can help find terrorists, clandestine agents, or indications and warning of potential enemy military activity. AI-based speech-to-text and translation services could greatly increase the scale of processing audio, video, and text-based foreign language information.

Usage of AI by USA for Homeland Security

USA is known to use AI extensively in aid of their Homeland Security. USA has been using AI primarily for collecting, sorting, and interpreting and for better decision making. Some of the applications of advancement in AI known to be used by the Department of Homeland Security, which is akin to our Coastal Security, in numerous ways.

Use of artificial intelligence to analyze voices to build out their physical appearances is being used by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This has helped in forensically addressing false distress signals. Similarly, DHS is known to be making use of open source data from the Transportation Security Administration available to develop better algorithms to evaluate passenger luggage for illicit and dangerous item.

US Coast Guard is the lead agency primarily responsible for Homeland Security. However, its presence at every mile or inspect every container is not feasible. AI systems in combination with UAVs and ground robotics, have aided Homeland Security in monitoring borders through advances in automated surveillance and anomaly detection.

USA is also known to use AI Systems that monitor human emotional expression and behavior as an aid in recognizing humans that appear nervous or are acting oddly, to identify personnel trying to sneak into USA. Thus AI is serving as a “sixth sense” at border crossings.

AI systems used for game theory/risk assessment are considered valuable in determining where best to apply scarce resources and how to counter adaptive adversaries, such as drug traffickers

Relevance of AI for India’s Coastal Security

India’s coastal domain offers a vast and largely unsecured medium for exploitation by state as well as non-state actors. The events of 26/11 have adequately highlighted the vulnerability of the coastal domain. Post 26/11, India has taken up numerous steps towards enhancing the coastal security management. Most of the coastal security architecture envisaged is very similar to USA. Some of the major steps taken to enhance coastal security have been to incorporate advanced technology which can be utilized for monitoring the coastline by installing chain of radars all along the coast and gathering required intelligence/information with AIS, signal monitoring devices etc. Further, efforts have been made to issue biometric cards to fishermen, fitment of transponders on fishing boats, implementation of colour codes for the fishing boats, etc. for ease of identification. Information available from such measures needs to be analysed to obtain actionable information. Sheer size of the coastal domain with offshore developmental activities, dense shipping and fishing and presence of International shipping Lane make the task of understanding of the coastal domain very complex. Towards this, Artificial Intelligence technology can be of immense value as it has potential to exponentially enhance important constituents of coastal security management such as threat monitoring, situational awareness, data collection, data information processing, intelligence analysis, use of unmanned surface vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, etc.


Adopting AI tools in defence enhances the processing and utilization of data which in turn improves the speed of decision-making considered so critical in modern warfare. Indian government has rightly taken initiative of constituting an Artificial Intelligence Task Force of Ministry of Defence on using AI for military superiority. Coastal security being one of the important constituent of National Security provides ample opportunity for induction of AI technology in big way. Coastal Security poses a complex environment with large number of stakeholders actually is in need of AI technology to collate large data from numerous sensors being deployed for surveillance like coastal radar chains, surveillance aircrafts, merchant ships, warships on patrol, Unmanned aerial vehicles, etc., filter, analyse and finally produce actionable intelligence for offensive/ defensive action. Use of AI technology would be like a force multiplier and would bring a positive change in management of coastal security in terms of its efficiency and effectiveness. In order to manage the coastal security challenges ahead, India will need to incorporate AI technology for its benefits.


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