Unmanned aerial vehicle Netra will scout for bodies of engineering students from Hyderabad who drowned in river Beas in Himachal Pradesh. With many bodies suspected to be entangled in the river bed, the search will employ the use of Sound Navigation and Ranging (Sonar) equipment for bodies, according to P Vairavanathan, Assistant Commandant, NDRF.
The UAV, a prized possession of the NDRF 5th battalion, was used for search operations during the Uttarakhand floods last year. “Netra can fly 2.5 km from take-off point and to a height of 1000 ft. It has a battery back-up of 30 minutes. In case of a small malfunction or battery discharge, built-in fail-safe system allows it to return to take-off point even if communication is lost,” said Alok Awasthi,commandant of the battalion. “We gave the UAV yesterday for search operation. After 48 hours the bodies tend to float on the surface,” added Awasthi.
The bodies may not surface if entangled under boulders. “Within 48 hours, bodies float up but in this case, the bodies have got stuck in boulders and silt. This hit search operations. Out of the 24 bodies, 8 have been fished out. Even the body that was taken out on Thursday was stuck so badly that four divers had to take it out. Netra is useful only when bodies are visible on the surface. But we are monitoring the surface continuously with two units of NETRA as inaccessible areas can be reached using NETRA,” said Vairavanathan. “Tomorrow, after getting SONAR equipment, which is being provided by GMR group, we will be able to see the situation better,” said Vairavanathan who is accompanied by sub inspector Sanjay Desai of the battalion.
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Another major advantage is high-resolution photos the vehicle can take. “Netra can take high resolution pictures in flight. It can telecast search area live to the base station which is again a big advantage as the flight can be modified as per visuals,” said Avasthi. “It has a line of sight of 1.5 km at a height of 300 m. It is operated by a team of two. For a mission like this, this is a good vehicle,” added Awasthi.