Indian drone startups turn themselves into Force Multipliers in battle against Covid-19

by May 11, 2020 0 comments

Soma Tah


The conversations about the promises of drone technologies have never been more relevant, especially at a time when governments and local authorities around the world are scrambling for ways to combat and contain the spread of the Coronavirus and that too with minimum human interactions possible. Because the frontline workers who are working tirelessly to safeguard people are at greatest risk of exposure to the infection and if not protected, they can become the vectors of further infection as well.

Drones have proved to be particularly useful in aiding government efforts to curb the spread of the disease, because they can reach areas that are difficult to cover either by foot or by vehicles and can do it much faster. A drone can cover a distance of 10km in just 8 mins. Another advantage is that it keeps frontline workers away from close contact with potentially infected people.

There are few basic ways in which drones can and are being used right now:

Surveillance and enforce lockdown measures 

Drones are now being used for real-time surveillance of public places in major cities and to help local authorities enforce lockdown measures effectively, without deploying any on-ground personnel.

Regular surveillance using drones also acts as a strong deterrent against lockdown violations. A drone carrying an HD camera and a megaphone can be used to disperse gatherings and canvass precautionary messages, such as to put on your mask or maintain social distancing, etc.

Spray disinfectants to sanitise places 
Image Source: DJI drones

Crop spraying drones can be utilized to disinfect public areas more efficiently without causing any health hazards. The speed and area covered in the process are unmatched. Disinfectants spraying drones with a 16L tank can sanitise 100,000 square meters in an hour. The spraying activity does not take more than just 2-3 minute and can be repeated as many times as necessary.

Many city municipal corporations have already resorted to this hassle-free surface disinfection technique to sanitize crowded marketplaces, railway stations, areas around hospitals, garbage dumps, etc. If needed, these drones can be used effectively for air disinfection also.

Check infection with thermal imaging 

Drones with thermal imaging cameras can detect high body temperatures from a distance of around 10 ft away. The data can be analyzed further to understand the level of infection in certain areas and to help authorities to take necessary actions. A public canvassing system can also be used alongside to monitor highly infected zones and give appropriate instructions to the people.


Image Source: Aquiline Drones
Deliver medical supplies 

Drones have also proved to be an efficient means to deliver critical medical supplies in emergency scenarios. They can deliver first aid quicker than traditional ambulances. Not only does it help in speeding up deliveries of essential medical supplies, but also reduce the exposure of medical staff in a pandemic like situation. Most drones can be easily modified with a payload drop mechanism to deliver packages up to 6 kgs.

Indian drone startups step up to help cities tackle the crisis

In this ongoing battle against the Coronavirus crisis, a bunch of Indian drone startups are now acting as force multipliers for the municipal bodies and the police forces. During the lockdown, we have seen them exploring new and innovative ways drone tech can be used in battling the ongoing crisis -by doing surveillance, detecting infections, disinfecting areas, delivering medical supplies and so on.

City authorities and police forces have also embraced these solutions for strategic and targeted jobs. For instance, police forces in Sangli and Guwahati have turned to drone-maker, ideaForge to enforce lockdown measures. The dronemaker has partnered with Fractal Analytics to offer AI-powered drone solutions for real-time and intelligent aerial surveillance.

New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) Chairman Debashis Sen said, “We are using drones to disperse any gatherings that violate the social distancing guidelines. Marketplaces and adjacent roads often tend to get crowded during the morning and evening rush hours. Hence, we are using drones to closely monitor those public places. We are also considering using drones for sanitizing areas.”

Bengaluru-based drone company, General Aeronautics, which has expertise in precision agriculture, and in emergency medical delivery including transportation of active blood control kits and organs for transplantation is now helping municipal corporations in the cities such as Bangalore, Mysore, Bhubaneswar, and Cuttack to sanitize those cities using drones. It is also working in tandem with the respective police forces to carry out disease surveillance tasks in those cities.

The drone company is also working on to create a crowdsourced drone surveillance solution model for the Bangalore City Police by pooling the drone enthusiasts, events and wedding photographers in the city. Abhishek Burman, Founder Director and CEO, General Aeronautics, said, “Around 80-100 drones can be easily pooled this way in Bangalore now for such a crowdsourced solution. The solution we are designing will help integrate live camera feeds generated by all these drone operators to a command and control centre for monitoring, analyzing and creating alerts. Every single drone operator will be assigned to one police station for compliance reasons.”

Another Delhi-based drone startup, Indian Robotics Solutions has developed a Corona Combat Drone that is transformable and can accommodate a medicine box to carry essentials like portable corona testing kits and medicines, spotlight for night utility, speaker for giving instructions and a disinfectant tank in addition to a thermal imaging camera.

“If we find a person who has high temp, he/she can be identified and taken away by the authority and the area around him can be sanitised accordingly through the same drone. We are in talks with various state governments as well as the central Govt. for its deployment specifically in the red zones,” said Prashant Pillai, Co-Founder, Indian Robotics Solutions.

The startup is already working with North Delhi Municipal Corporations (NDMC) for sanitizing the area and is also in talks with various state governments as well as the central government for their Thermal Imaging drone.

Another Indian drone startup, Marut Dronetech is already conducting trial runs with state governments of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and Trichy Municipal Corporation for its Thermal Imaging drones. The drones are fitted with infrared cameras and can be used for thermal screening of groups and to identify suspected cases at an early stage.

PCQ Bureau | Pcquest

Will drones become mainstream in the post-pandemic world?

The pandemic has opened doors for many drone operators to go mainstream with their unique offerings. Many such offerings are likely to find sustained usage scenarios in the post-pandemic world as well.

Sukanya Mandal, IEEE Member feels that the post-pandemic world will see increased use of drones for supplying the much needed daily essentials or the emergency medicine to villages or remote areas that are difficult to reach by roads. Agricultural drones will also become mainstream.

Glenford V. D’Souza, Senior General Manager, LYNX: Lawrence & Mayo feels that drones will become part and parcel of households and industries over time. “We can confidently expect a significant increase in the use of drones due to its versatility and multi-purpose applications. Additionally, several other applications are currently being invented to make this even more dynamic,” he said.

Vipul Singh, Co-founder and CEO, Aarav Unmanned Systems said, “I believe the regulations will be operationalized very fast now to make it easy for our police forces to adopt drones surveillance and crowd management in the post-pandemic world.”

Ankit Mehta, CEO of ideaForge said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that our current resources and strategies may not be adequate in mitigating crises like these in the future. We must augment and strengthen our security and surveillance framework with drone technology as it will enable the authorities to take control of a situation. The administration has realized this need and has shown an increasing interest in procuring drones.”


Also Read: 

Drone Tidbits: Things you must know before flying drones in India



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