Back to the Future Part-2, a science fiction movie released in 1989, depicted drones being used to record news. More recently, in 2019, Spider-Man: Far from Home shows the usage of drones to create holographic cataclysmic threats that Spider-Man thwarts to save the day. Although the exaggerated depiction of the tech-led future that shows the high-tech usage of drones seems unreal in the films, the reality is that drones have come a long way in how they are used.
What are Drones?
Drones are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that operate without a pilot on board. For many people, UAV or Drones is a novel technology that will soon be used -if not already- to deliver pizzas, groceries, and medical supplies. But the truth is that drones have been around us for centuries and are capable of much more than just delivering stuff. The idea of UAVs first became known on 22nd August 1849, when Austria attacked Venice with unmanned balloons full of explosives. During the initial years, drones were limited to target practice by military personals, but their applications expanded with time and improved technologies.
Uses of Drones in the Public Sector
Drones are used in surveillance, monitoring, detection, prevention, targeting, and even strike missions. There are various use cases of drones in public sector enterprises like tourism agriculture, military, urban development, healthcare, security, mining, telecom, oil and gas, disaster management, land mapping, wildlife, maritime operations etc.
Various governments around the globe have been making use of UAVs for many purposes. For example, in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration uses drones to inspect railway lines to monitor and prevent rail accidents by monitoring derailments. The administration also uses drones to inspect bridges. In Singapore, aerial vision is used to conduct surveillance of mosquito-infested areas to prepare a strategy to fight dengue. In Canada, many wildfire services use UAVs for recon missions, smoke and fire detection, and various rescue operations.
How does the Indian Government use drones?
The Indian Government also uses drone technology in its different sectors:
- Urban Development
- The Government of Karnataka uses aerial vision technology to estimate property tax and adequately map out the city for proper planning and governance.
- The Andhra Pradesh government is using drones to monitor and assess green patches in the three selected regions of the state. The Government plans to extend the project to the whole state and wishes to make Andhra Pradesh a green state.
- The Government of Andhra Pradesh is also planning to monitor new development activities in its new capital Amravati through drone-based outputs such as geo-referenced ortho-images and digital elevation models.
- Forest Department
- The Tamil Nadu government has deployed drones with thermal and infrared technologies to monitor real-time animal movement and prevent forest fires.
- The Haryana Forest Department has introduced two drones in their fleet to manage and monitor forest fires, prevent illegal activities like poaching, tree cutting, encroachment and road construction in the Aravalli range.
- The Maharashtrian Government has inducted drones to monitor crop failure due to rain deficit in the Marathwada region of the state. Thus, ensuring timely dispensation of compensation to the farmers.
- The Government of Karnataka has started with a pilot project to deploy drones to identify crop type, estimate crop acreage and crop yield.
- Some individual farmers of Andhra Pradesh use drones to spray pesticides and fertilizers in the farms. Based on the results, they plan to extend the mechanism to other crops as well.
- Disaster Management
- The national disaster management authority deployed drones during the rescue operation in the flood-hit Uttarakhand. These drones were also used to assess the damage caused by the flood.
- The National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, used drones to trace 24 Engineering students swept away in the Beas river. The NDRF has also deployed drones to survey landslides site at Malin in Ambegaon.
- National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) used drones in the Salem-Chennai green corridor to cross-check the accuracy of the land required for the project. The drones were used to estimate the number of trees (coconut, mango, and palm) that the expressway project would affect.
- The Maharashtrian Government, as a pilot project, has used aerial vision to check rush hour traffic on a 95 km stretch between Lonavala exit and Khalapur toll plaza and on the Mumbai Pune highway.
The Indian Government has already implemented aerial vision technologies in various sectors. The pilot projects deployed by the governments are now being expanded to full-fledged programs to expand the reach of aerial vision. However, there are certain challenges facing the development and deployment of UAVs- regulations, target applications, man-machine interface design issues, navigation, safety/reliability, collision prevention, take-off/landing techniques, etc. Several companies help in solving the above challenges as they have specialized engineering departments offering drone and middleware services by working with leading ISVs and OEMs.
Uses of Video and Image Analytics in the Public Sector
Video and image analytic software monitor and analyze video streams and images to find patterns and anomalies. The market for such software is increasing rapidly, as corroborated by a report by 6wreseach, which states that the video surveillance market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.8% during 2021-27. The report also showed that the Government and Transportation sector is the biggest amongst the various vertical markets. This is because the significant use-case of video and image analytics is in surveillance. According to the report, the positive outlook of the Indian Government and the various initiatives such as Smart Cities Mission, UDAN scheme, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation, and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) has led to this rise. The rise in demand is also due to purchase orders for surveillance devices by various state governments. Not long ago, Forbes India reported that Delhi had surpassed metropolitans like New York, London, and Shanghai in being the most surveilled city per square mile. This means Delhi has more than 1826 surveillance cameras per square mile, followed by London (1138) and Chennai (609).
Video and Image analytics is also used in traffic management for Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR), issuance of over-speed challan, red light or any other traffic violation. Airports are planning to use image analytics to allow passengers to unpack their bags virtually. The scanners embedded with image analytics will provide better object detection and significantly reduce the number of bags that will need to be checked manually. Many insurance companies use image analytics to assess damaged vehicles for easy resolution of claims.
Few real-world uses of Video and Image analytics by Indian Public Sectors-
- As per the Times of India, Gujarat Police has decided to set up their video analytics program to train police personnel. This will increase the speed of crime detection and prevention. Earlier, the CCTV videos were sent to 3rd party experts for video and image analysis.
- Surakshavyuh, a solution for CCTV video analytics, is installed in Naval Docks of Vishakapatnam. It was developed with the help of the National Center of Excellence in Technology at IIT-Bombay and is capable of real-time intrusion detection, perimeter monitoring, face recognition, and crowd counting.
- Indian Railways has deployed a network of more than 500 CCTV cameras embedded with face recognition technology across 30 railways stations.
The Indian Government and the various state governments are spending heavily on surveillance and monitoring equipment. The spending is only expected to rise as incidents of thefts, women safety and terrorism rise year after year. Moreover, rapid urbanization is also a factor to deploy surveillance cameras around the cities.