Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones have seen multiple uses in various sectors across the globe including military, goods delivery, surveillance, conservation etc. Their compact sizes, reach and convenience in handling means they can be tailored to be valuable resources in many sectors. In India too, UAVs are beginning to be used in diverse fields in areas where their accessibility can be an advantage.

Monitoring for Crop Insurance

Recently a government committee that was studying drones in crop insurance schemes concluded that drones could be more important than satellite technology in monitoring crop statuses for insurance.

The report by the government stated, “The ideal alternative is to gather data from low heights [i.e., below the cloud] and at very high resolution where aerial photography or UAVs score over all available alternatives.”

“Farmer field coordinates be made mandatory for issuance of insurance policy. This will help in tracking the crop field throughout the crop season without much ground monitoring, and, any kind of loss can readily be verified from satellite data,” it added.

Drones Used by the Indian Railways

Drones are proving particularly useful in their reach to otherwise difficult terrains that might be challenging to reach on foot or be hard to access. Drones can not only be flown over tough terrain, but they save considerable time in doing so.

In a recent application of UAVs, the Mysuru division of the Indian Railways used drones in an aerial survey in a hilly terrain between Sakleshpur and Subramanya. The high resolution footage from the drone will be used by the railways to gauge dangers and implement safety measures on the rail route.

“The general practice is to go on a foot patrol or use the trolley but with drones and aerial footage we get a better perspective and we were able to identify areas where waterlogging was taking place, where landslides or landslips were imminent due to lose soil etc. and could take precautionary measures,” Atul Gupta, Divisional Railway Manager, Mysuru division told the Indian national daily, the Hindu.

Patrolling the mountainous terrain on foot would have taken the team two days. However, with a drone the Indian Railways was able to gather a two-hour long footage, that provided an invaluable aerial perspective, much more quickly.

Drones to Monitor Traffic

In a first of its kind step in India, the government of the West Indian state of Maharashtra is considering the use of drones to monitor traffic violations. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway is a high speed, six lane expressway that unfortunately has become infamous for road accidents. Many of the mishaps are caused by speeding vehicles that jump lanes. The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation plans to use drones to overcome the lack of manpower and the length and hilly topography of the expressway that makes controlling traffic on it an uphill task. Even CCTVs are limited in their use in a hilly terrain and cannot be affixed everywhere along the expressway.

The Indian Express quoted Deepak Kesarkar, Maharashtra’s Minister of State for Home (Urban) as saying, “Initially, four to five drone will be hired from private companies for the expressway. Depending upon the result, the Home department is considering to use drones across Mumbai.”

This seems to be only the beginning of creative uses of drones in India. Given its varied topography, the dearth of manpower and budget restraints, UAVs are proving that they can provide invaluable high quality visual information with lesser time and effort.

Elizabeth Raj | Blogger- Arsha Consulting

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