Drones sharpen focus on trouble spots

Drone keeping vigil at the Muharram procession in Bawana in Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy  

For Chhath Puja and Muharram, Delhi Police sent out several “eyes in the sky” this year scouting for troublemakers, against the backdrop of communal tensions.

Small, low-flying drones fitted with cameras and sweeping over crowds in hard-to-access localities of the capital are the new-age machines catching the fancy of police forces, as they grapple with law and order situations.

Ahead of the Chhath puja, the Delhi police used mini drones fitted with cameras for surveillance. They then deployed them in riot-hit Trilokpuri in East Delhi.

“We used one drone every day in Trilokpuri area, both during the day and night. For the Muharram procession on Tuesday, we used four or five in the entire city to keep a vigil,” Joint Commissioner of Police, Eastern Range, Sanjay Beniwal told TheHindu.

Drones that are less than two metres long and one metre wide and weigh less than two kilos are preferred, to cover an area of about 1000 sq. metres. Their real time videos are relayed to the police control room. “This helps in taking decisions on movement of police personnel, to scan trouble spots and monitor crowds,” a police officer said.

Recent footage from the localities that witnessed violence or communal tension now forms part of the Delhi police archive.

While there is great interest in using the new technology, Delhi Police does not have its own drones yet. For security arrangements in Trilokpuri and Bawana areas, the flying machines with night and day vision were hired from a private agency.

“We are soon going to buy our own. The cost will depend on what kind of drones we choose. There are some with night vision cameras, and some with weapons. We are working on what will serve us best,” Mr. Beniwal added.

Disaster management and rescue is another area where drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, can be put to good use. The Armed Forces operate Israeli drones named Heron and Searcher for surveillance, as well as the indigenous Lakshya and Nishant models. DRDO is developing Rustom I & II medium and long endurance drones for military use. A combat UAV (UCAV) is also on DRDO’s drawing board.

UAVs of the IAF have been used to track movement of Maoists in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and DRDO has offered Nishant customised for the role.

“We are planning to demonstrate the use of Nishant from Jagdalpur in March and April. Some 16 are required to start with, according to present estimates,” DRDO chief Avinash Chander said. But these flying machines have had limited success due to the dense tropical forests.

Recently, drones were also used to track tigers and spot poachers.

(With additional inputs from Kritika Sharma)

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 4:57:09 PM |

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