Thursday, April 16, 2020

Sanitation, aerial alerts make drones new soldiers in war against Covid-19

Mumbai: Drones, which were mostly limited only to wedding photography or spraying pesticides over farms earlier, are becoming the eyes of the administration amid the Covid-19 outbreak to monitor areas.

The blanket-ban on drones which was lifted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in 2018, has been utilised throughout the country for effectively spraying disinfectants, surveillance, crowd management, spreading awareness through public announcements and also geo-mapping to chalk-out containment zones.
Mumbai Police, for example, has deployed around 50 drones all over the city, in association with the Drone Federation of India. "The drones are doing surveillance for the police, and the images, videos captured by them are directly fed to the Mumbai Police Control Room," said Smit Shah, Director-Partnerships, DFI. The drone operators cover a radius of 500 metres on an average, and spot violations of social distancing norm.
Also, DFI has three teams working on-ground in densely-populated slum areas such as Malvani and Dharavi to assist the police and fly speaker-enabled drones to spread awareness on social distancing and staying indoors, in Marathi and Hindi.

Chennai-based Garuda Aerospace is executing drone-based sanitisation operations across 26 cities including that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi. The start-up, with an aggregated 300 drones and 500 operators under its fold, is working with several state governments in spraying disinfectants, conducting aerial surveillance using thermal cameras and geo-mapping.
“We have also started to build preliminary testing using geo-mapping drones to map COVID-19 hotspots in Tamil Nadu. This will help the government identifying hotspots accurately after plotting the number of cases in a particular area,” said Agnishwar Jayaprakash, founder, Garuda Aerospace. “We also plan to manufacture around 100-150 drones with the help of startup incubation cell at Agni Institute of Technology, Chennai, and train 100 mechatronics students who had come forward to volunteer.” The drones are equipped with 80 per cent auto-pilot capacity and hence manual training becomes quicker and easier, he added.
An indigenously built drone can cover around 50-60 acres on an average for sanitisation purposes with 20 litres of disinfectants and a fly time of 35-40 minutes. “These are hybrid drones that can work with fuel and battery. It is because of these enhanced features we had the advantage to bag multiple orders across various states,” said Jayprakash. A drone can cover around 20 kilometres in a day as compared to 4-5 kilometres by a sanitation worker who also exposes himself to infections in the process.
16/04/20 Sai Ishwar/Business Standard
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