BENGALURU: If you are loitering around your neighbourhood with friends during the lockdown, don’t be surprised to find a drone hovering over you and asking you to go back home. Police authorities across states like Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Karnataka are roping in wedding photographers and hobbyists to use drones for tasks like surveillance, announcements and spraying disinfectants to battle Covid-19 virus.
Trial runs to use these drones have already been done in some densely populated areas like Mumbai’s Dharavi, with feed being directly sent police control rooms. While in some states like Karnataka usage of drones is still at a pilot stage, it is expected to pick up in the coming week in containment zones as industry associations finalise tie-ups with local police authorities, which will be the key.
“Our surveillance squads go with police to specific areas. We have regional leaders who take up the operations,” said Smit Shah, director of partnerships at industry body Drone Federation of India, adding that 40-50 drones are being used by state governments right now. Some state government is also looking to purchase drones, but Shah said their recommendations are to use existing drones as training period could take long and it may turn out to be an expensive proposition. “Instead state governments can pay drone pilots some of whom are not working right now,” said Shah.
Now there are also platforms that are coming up to mobilise drone pilots, who can volunteer their services across India. Startup executives have set up Droneman.in to register those interested.
Earlier this year Indian government said that about 20,531 drones of different sizes have been registered by both individuals and corporates, though industry estimates peg the total number in the country at 50,000-60,000. Major commercial use case of drones in India till now has been in wedding photography.
In China, where drone usage is much more advanced, besides surveillance, the government used them to transport medical test samples and even for e-commerce deliveries.