Drones in UP to help control locust

Published: Jun 28, 2020, 3:59 pm IST

Chennai:  Drone-as-a-Service (DAAS) provider Garuda Aerospace will soon start spraying anti-locust pesticide in several parts of Uttar Pradesh, including Noida near Delhi, said a top company official.

“We have got the order to deploy five drones for anti-locust operations from Banda University of Agriculture & Technology, Uttar Pradesh. We will be sending 10 pilots for operating the drones. The mandate is to deploy the drones for a total of 50 hours at the locations specified by the University,” Agnishwar Jayaprakash, Managing Director of city-based Garuda Aerospace, told IANS.

He said the company has already deployed its drones in Rajasthan in locust control operations.

“This is the first time drones are being used in locust control measures in India. It is a new case scenario,” Jayaprakash said.

According to him, there are two methods of spraying the pesticide — one by flying above the swarm of locust and spraying on them and the other is to spray the pesticide beforehand on the areas where the locusts are expected to land.

He said the state government agencies predict the flight path of the locust and give us one/two days notices on the location where the drones are to be used. Sometimes the notice is very short.

Jayaprakash said the locust hit percentage is about 70 per cent as per the state government officials.

“Unlike bees that attack an adversary, locusts swarm does not attack drones. Perhaps they see it as a big bird, their enemy and avoid. Their main purpose is to eat, procreate and fly,” Jayaprakash said.

According to him, the Banda University order will be executed in three/four days as the total 50 hours of flying can be completed by the five drones in that time.

“The five drones will be flown by air on Monday,” he added.

Garuda Aerospace has been carrying out drone based anti-coronavirus sanitation orders from several municipal corporations and smart cities like Varanasi, Rourkela, Raipur, Chennai and Hyderabad.

“While the government contracts for anti-coronavirus sanitation orders have been completed, the corporate sector has started using our services. And now the orders are for locust control operations,” Jayaprakash added.

According to him, the Covid-19 pandemic and locust attack has increased the focus on drones and their use.

Apart from spraying anti-coronavirus disinfectants, drones were used by police in Tamil Nadu to monitor the lockdown violators.

Jayaprakash said Garuda Aerospace has manufactured and serviced drones for several government departments in Tamil Nadu, like forests, electricity, police, mining, agriculture, Indian Coast Guard and others.

“Already drones are being used for spraying pesticides, weedicides and liquid fertiliser on farms and is also used for monitoring of pipelines and surveillance and now for locust control operations,” Leo Peter Charles, Managing Director, Jane Aerospace Private Ltd told IANS.

Jane Aerospace is into consulting, marketing, sales and provision of skilled manpower support for drone operating companies.

Agreeing with Jayaprakash, Charles said there will be more interest on drones from different agencies.

“The challenge for the drone makers is importing critical components from China given the current border tussle,” Charles said.

Jayaprakash said there are other markets wherefrom the critical components can be imported and China is not the sole market place. The only advantage China offers is the price, but there is also the issue of quality.

Meanwhile, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has set up a nine member working group to suggest suitable insurance cover for drones as their numbers are on the rise.

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