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COVID-19: Drones help disinfect, sanitise 11 districts in Telangana

Drone carrying out disinfection   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

A multi-pronged approach is required to tackle a global pandemic. It’s imperative that wherever possible, measures are taken to minimise human contact and thereby protect health workers, the police, sanitation staff and others working in the front lines to tackle COVID-19. This is where technology can be of use. Since March, in collaboration with authorities in Telangana, the start-up Marut Drones has employed 19 drones to carry out disinfection and sanitisation in 11 districts including Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Kamareddy and Sangareddy.

Drones powered by data analytics, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and IoT (Internet of Things) can carry up to 10 litres of disinfectant and cover about 20 kilometres. So far, the firm has disinfected 1900 kilometres with 9800 litres of chemical.

Registered in 2019, Marut Drones was incubated at Hyderabad’s T-Hub and mentored by IIIT-Hyderabad (International Institute of Information Technology) and RICH (Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad). Recently, the firm was featured in Forbes’ ‘The 30 Under 30 Asia’ list and is among the top 25 trending technologies listed by AGNIi (Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations) for fighting against COVID-19.

Agriculture to COVID-19

Prem Kumar Vislawath

Prem Kumar Vislawath   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Marut Drones was founded by IIT Guwahati alumni Prem Kumar Vislawath, Suraj Peddi and Saikumar Chinthala. Their idea was to use drones for sustainable agriculture, reforestation and tackling mosquito menace on lakes. While they didn’t anticipate a situation like COVID-19, they rose to the occasion.

“We had to re-engineer our drones for COVID-19 operations. Drones can cover large areas in less time and recently, we demonstrated how medical and essential supplies can also be delivered to far-flung areas through drones. We are waiting for clearance to be able to do this,” says Prem.

A drone for medical and emergency supplies

A drone for medical and emergency supplies   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

In the coming months, as Telangana hopes to gradually ease lockdown measures, the company plans to scale up operations and work with the authorities for night-time surveillance of different zones, use thermal cameras to spot possible infection clusters and supply emergency medical needs.

T-Hub start-ups and COVID-19
  • BlueSemi has built a wireless thermal sensor to monitor temperature in a crowd
  • ByteForce has developed SafeVision, an AI-based computer vision solution that can be integrated into any CCTV or drone camera to monitor people in public places
  • offers surveillance solutions for hotspots using drones.
  • Cogni.Care has designed two types of ventilators, which do not require an external oxygen cylinder.
  • Dimension NXG has come up with large scale thermal scanning glasses
  • Exprs has launched #ShieldMyCommunity campaign for gated communities, with dedicated delivery executives.

Marut Drones is keen to collaborate with like-minded start-ups that use drones to help both the public and private sector in thermal analysis of crowds. Drones retrofitted with cameras can detect high body temperatures in people from a distance.

The beginning

Prem reveals that he was interested in drones since 2012. In 2016, a personal need made him think of using drones for public health service. “My parents live in the outskirts of Hyderabad, in the vicinity of a lake and a persistent mosquito menace,” he recalls. He had submitted complaint letters to the Panchayat officer.

One fine day, his letters were returned by the officer who stated that he didn’t have resources to tackle the issue. The municipal staff would spray anti-larval medicines on the lake edges and had no facility to access the larger mid portion. The thick water hyacinth was also a deterrent.

“The Panchayat officer asked if I could think of a solution,” says Prem.

Prem could see a solution through the use of technology-powered drones that could map an area and efficiently spray the anti-larva medicine on lake waters. An automated process with the capacity to cover 25 to 20 acres, with zero human contact.

Mosquito menace

In March 2019, he approached Harichandana Dasari, the then additional and zonal commissioner of GHMC. Soon, obtaining permissions, the automated drone disinfection method was carried out in 17 lakes across the city, including Miyapur and Raidurgam lakes, sections of Musi and Bapu Ghat from March to December 2019.

The firm also reached out to RICH to understand what species of mosquito larvae were predominant in which regions of Hyderabad, so as to tackle the threat of malaria, filariasis, dengue and chikungunya.

This year, Marut Drones intends to resume its mosquito anti-larvae campaign during monsoon.

Using drones for seed sowing to help increase forest cover is also on the anvil. “We did a test by dispersing seed balls in the Veernapally forest zone of Sircilla. We have the capacity to sow 15,000 seeds and want to increase this to 1 lakh,” says Prem, signing off.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 12:32:39 PM |

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