The coronavirus pandemic has spread across India like wildfire. As of now, there are 7,42,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout the country. Maintaining a complete lock-down of a country with 1.3 billion people is quite challenging. Therefore, the government is making use of drones to ensure the lock-down of the utmost severity. From surveillance to disinfecting, drones are proving to be highly efficient in enforcing ‘social distancing’.

COVID-19 containment in process
Image source: The Economic Times

Drone surveillance to contain COVID-19 spread

Several states in India are using drones to track the movements of people. Gujarat police recently deployed 200 drones across the state to keep an eye on unwanted movement. Owing to drone surveillance, a reported 7,000 people have been arrested for violating the lock-down.

“Ahmedabad Rural police also uses drones to maintain social distancing and enforce total lockdown. On an average, 10 to 12 persons are arrested every day after they are spotted by drones,” Deputy Superintendent of Police, Ahmedabad district, SH Sarda, stated.

Gujrat Police drone

The Delhi Police have also been using drones to monitor sealed areas and other parts of the city. Drones mounted with speakers have been carrying out public announcements. Drones were also deployed in Azadpur Mandi, Asia’s largest fruits and vegetables market.

Ankit Mehta, CEO of ideaForge, a drone manufacturing company, said “This is the time to go for mass procurement and leverage the entire drone production capability of the country. It will take us two-three weeks to start delivering,” He further added that, “My estimate is that we have 640 districts. If about 2,000 drones are inducted, assuming that each district needs around 3 drones, we can enable a broad level of persistent surveillance in the major containment zones,”

Drones are helping disinfect cities

Since the 24th of March, 2020 the BBMP has been disinfecting major locations in Bangalore using drones. Employing a team of 4 drone operators, 6 hexacopters have been moving from locality to locality. Filled with 15 liters of disinfectant spray, the team successfully disinfected all major public hot-spots in the city.

COVID-19 drone disinfectant
BBMP’s disinfectant drone.

The Madurai Municipal Corporation deployed a drone to disinfect areas near the COVID-19 wing of Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) on April 9th, 2020 as a precautionary measure. The same drone was also used to spray disinfectant in containment zones across the city. This step was taken in order to reduce the risk of contraction of the virus by human workers and improve efficiency.

Also, the municipal corporation of Warangal in Telangana, have partnered with Binford Robotics. The corporation is utilizing their UAVs to assist in surveillance and disinfection of various parts in the city.

Private drone startups step-in for support

Apart from government drones, private drone startups like ideaForge, as mentioned above, have come forward in support free of cost. There are bout 20,000 drone operators registered with the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation). Procuring new drones would prove to be time-consuming and a challenging task for the government. Hence, drone operators are collaborating with the government to facilitate the containment process.

“This would be much more cost-effective for the governments as against procuring new drones at this time as that would involve management of equipment, training programs and capacity building, which might not be feasible as of now,” DFI’s (Drone Federation of India) Director, Smit Shah stated.

Due to this pandemic, drones have displayed their potential in the Indian market. From law enforcement to journalism and local deliveries, drones are being hailed as the tools to fight this war against COVID-19. With the rapidly building infrastructure, drone deliveries and policing could soon be the new norm.