Kolkata: To step up surveillance along the West Bengal coastline, the Navy will operate Unmanned Aerial Vehicles from an air enclave it proposes to set up at the Behala Flying Club here.

"We found that to operate, we need round-the-clock surveillance along the coastline. It is the key to maritime security. For this, Behala is ideally suited because it is close to the coastline. It also has the space to develop the necessary infrastructure," the state's Naval Officer-in- Charge Cmdr BA Thomas told a press conference.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI), which owns the property of the flying club, has earmarked 17 acre for the air enclave, he said, adding the Ministry of Defence was now working out the formalities with the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

"We have the squadrons available. If we get an early approval, we hope to make the facility operational by next year," he said.

Thomas said that as of now, there were plans to deploy a squadron of Heron, a medium altitude long-endurance UAVs at the facility, but other class of aircraft might be deployed later if necessary.

He said maintenance of coastal security in West Bengal was a 'complex' job as it covered ecologically-sensitive Sunderbans and there were 750 small islands along the coastline.

(Agencies)