Raipur to Tamil Nadu, civic bodies look at drones to sanitise areas faster, safer

Karishma Mehrotra
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Mumbai Police uses a drone to check people’s movement during the lockdown. (Photo: PTI)

Convinced that drones are a worthy investment in combating COVID-19, municipalities nationwide are deploying mini-choppers to sanitise their localities.

With trains and flights out of question, drone manufacturer Garuda Aerospace is sending eight drones and eight drone pilots by road from Chennai to Raipur on Saturday.

Raipur’s Municipal Commissioner Saurabh Kumar said the city will begin work in areas that have reported confirmed cases. “Israel and Singapore are also doing this. Drones are able to reach places where manually we cannot — such as slums,” Kumar said.

“We are also planning to use it for public announcements related to coronavirus,” he said.

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The liquid solution will be of water, hydrogen peroxide, and silver nitrate — a WHO-approved sanitisation combination, Kumar said. He said the city police have used drones for the last one-and-a-half years for law and order observation and crowd control.

“Ground-level workers are optimal carriers for the virus and are susceptible to getting infected, unlike drones,” Garuda founder Agnishwar Jayaprakash said. “Four lakh Indians are doing this job across the country. We have machines that can do what manual public labourers are doing. Why not use it?”

Along with disinfecting aerial devices in South Korea, China, one of the biggest manufacturers worldwide, has used the miniature vehicles for fever detection, sanitisation, and supply delivery.

Tamil Nadu’s Health Department has labeled its sanitisation programme “Surgical Strike on Coronavirus.” According to a release, the project consists of 300 drones and 500 pilots to sanitise hospitals, metros, and roads across the state. In a chart comparing on-ground workers and drones, the release states that drones cover more area, work for longer, have less safety risks, and reach more locations.

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In Indore, Municipal Commissioner Ameesh Singh hired two drones from an agricultural company more than a week ago. Each drone can carry 60 litres for a 30-minute flight covering up to 5 acres. Singh said they attempted to cover the whole city, but now have narrowed focus on three localities where 13 COVID-19 cases have been found.

“I saw a video of farmers using drones and asked my local officials whether we can re-purpose it for this. With wind, we can cover almost the entire city in a day with two drones,” Singh said.

The solution is a combination of sodium hypochlorite, cresol powder, and a bio-sanitiser called Biokleen.

In Karnataka, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) also expanded their sanitisation drive in the city to include the new technology two days ago, mayor M Goutham Kumar told The Sunday Express. They have seven drones and are focusing on hospital buildings and premises.

“The advantage in aerial spraying is it sanitises the entire area, including tops of buildings. But the disadvantage is that they don’t have a great carrying capacity. They can each carry roughly 13 to 15 litres,” Goutham Kumar said.