April 14, 2020 10:02:59 pm
EVEN AS Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an extension of the countrywide lockdown till May 3, Ahmedabad Police called upon citizens with drone-flying expertise to join the ‘Ahmedabad Drone Squad’ in a bid to create a centralized system of drone footage surveillance in order to nab lockdown violators.
According to police officials, citizens who own drones and possess the expertise for flying them, have been invited by the Ahmedabad Drone Squad to connect with the Shahibaug-based control room. The ‘pilots’ — those who fly drones — can now fly the devices from the terraces of their homes and provide the live feed to the city police.
Leading the initiative in the state is 27-year-old Nikhil Methiya, founder of start-up Drone Lab, who was hired by the Gujarat Police three weeks ago. Speaking to The Indian Express, Methiya said that the police is pushing towards creating a centralized drone surveillance system.
“Three weeks ago, we had made an appeal to drone pilots across the state to help the police in nabbing violators and the response was phenomenal…we have over 100 drone pilots in Ahmedabad and over 320 in Gujarat. Till now, we have been working in a decentralized manner where pilots accompany a police team and then fly the aircraft in specific areas in order to catch the violators in real time. But with the extension of the lockdown, we are now moving towards a centralized model,” said Methiya.
Explaining the centralized model, he added, “The pilots are being asked to fly the drones from their homes in the vicinity of 1.2-1.5 kilometers and provide live footage to the Shahibaug-based control room in Ahmedabad. As the live footage shows the violators, the local police station is immediately informed to reach the spot and nab them. Based on the live footage, we do mapping of the city using Google Earth, which helps the police in analysing timing and areas of the city where maximum violations occur.”
When asked whether these citizens need to possess any expertise, Methiya said, “The pilots must have prior flying experience. As drones usually have a limited range, we ask them to fly it to their range of sight. To ensure privacy of police work, we have asked the pilots to use the memory cards provided by the police and hand it over to them once the task is over.”
On the forefront of the initiative in Ahmedabad is Hiren Chitroda, an aerial cinematographer, who says, “We have already received responses from 30-35 citizen pilots in Ahmedabad, whom we would like to include in our squad.”
With Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announcing curfew in areas of walled areas of Ahmedabad from Wednesday, due to the rising clusters of COVID 19 patients, the task ahead for the police is challenging. “The citizen pilots with their equipment can reach areas where police cannot. A centralized system of live drone surveillance footage will only help us in nabbing offenders and ensuring that the lockdown is in place,” said a senior police official of Ahmedabad police.
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