Drones for law enforcement?
Do we really need drones for security, surveillance or beat patrolling? If you’ve noticed, everyone likely knows where their nearest police station is, and it’s become common knowledge that you can get assistance by dialing 100 from any phone. So far, this has been the single biggest lifeline for Indians in terms of law enforcement. A couple of years ago, Bengaluru City Police put out a huge campaign to raise awareness about how quickly they respond when they get a call on the 100 helpline. Pictures of the response team taking calls from the call center were all over social media. It certainly seems very easy to have access to police protection, but in reality, are there really enough police personnel to serve 1.3 billion Indians? Reports say that there are only 138 policemen for every 100,000 Indians.
There are about 2.2 million police jobs in India today and the forces still have almost a quarter of their vacancies left. You might find a policeman manning traffic at every busy junction on your way home from work, and doing their rounds on their beat once or twice. That is still a stretch, considering that policemen say that they are required to patrol their beat each hour of the day. It’s a zone of nearly 1-2 km radius and they probably have to be on foot most of the time.
Disrupting the way law enforcement exists
Now, the biggest difference police forces have been able to make since the 100 helpline is the deployment of drones for beat patrolling. Given the enormous responsibility that the Indian police force has over the safety of our citizens, it is necessary for them to be fully equipped to deal with everything that happens on the ground. These police drones make a real difference by enhancing their bandwidth to keep an eye on their beats.
The police are still the best first responders to any emergency on the ground. Human intelligence and human intervention are highly necessary to fully serve the citizens they are protecting. The tactical advantage that drones give makes it possible for the police force to ensure maximum accuracy in reading security situations.
The most critical thing that tactical drones accomplish is the detection of anomalies over a wider area in a fraction of the time it takes to do manually. The NETRAv3 UAV alone can cover a large area within a radius of up to 5 kms in under an hour. This is not only integral during the daytime, especially for crowd control and traffic monitoring, but also essential for night-time surveillance.
A thermal imaging camera identifies and captures movements and activities on the ground even in pitch dark and relays real-time information to the ground control station.
Used strategically, surveillance capabilities can be expand to scanning number plates of speeding highway traffic/no parking areas, reading individual behaviours of people in a crowd, intercepting and recording proof that establishes a crime, and providing accurate visuals of inaccessible areas any time of the day by using drones for law enforcement.
Leveraging ideaForge’s technology to do the best
An example of how drones are used for security and surveillance is how ideaForge deployed a UAV to monitor an election rally. If anyone is planning a public gathering, they are required to inform the police about it and get permission to organize it at a specific time, date and place. These permits allow the police to prepare for the event and ensure maximum security for people. However, in case of an unusual surge in the number of people, a security breakdown is imminent.
A drone has the capability to read the general pattern of a crowd and detect anomalies in it. For instance, in a political rally, it is normal for people to punch their fists in the air (while shouting slogans). They could also be holding placards or flags in their hands. This is completely different from punching their fist forward, as if to harm someone. A more subtle difference to map is to see what they’re holding in their hands. Holding the pole of a flag is not the same as holding a stick that one can strike others with.
Drones can eventually identify these differences and alert the ground control about it. Pinpointing the exact location that requires attention reduces the response time for the police to act effectively to control the situation.
The pressure of regular beat patrolling can also be lifted with drones. Two beats could be of the same area size with different densities in population, however, the number of policemen assigned may be the same. Usually, the place with more number of people residing in it would be subject to higher security risk. It could also be the case with a crowded commercial area or a marketplace for most parts of the day.
It’s impossible for the human eye to detect each and every pick-pocket, scooter riding up a footpath, or the nonchalant eve-teaser. This is where drones can make that critical difference in security surveillance.
As a society, we’ve ended up stereotyping policemen to be those people who are constantly alert, almost omnipresent, and intimidating. This might be an occupational requirement for them, but now it isn’t necessary for them to be stressed about it. With the implementation of drones for law enforcement, and surveillance drones being used even at night, the police can be present everywhere at any given point in time. In fact, it would enable them to arrive where they required more swiftly, and it will not be a function of how far their patrol car/bike currently is.
ideaForge drone deployment to combat COVID-19
Since the spread of the novel coronavirus, it has become dangerous for people to step out and come in contact with other people. This especially affects those people whose jobs require them to do so. And right now, the law enforcement agencies and doctors and medical staff are on the front-lines of the battle against the pandemic.
Police forces across the country have begun using drones for law enforcement, especially surveillance purposes, to help keep an eye on peoples’ movement and help control the spread of the coronavirus. There are several advantages that they recieve when using drones; the surveillance capacity of the police increases manifold with the use of drones. The response time to any situation is also a lot faster, since a drone can fly faster and reach a location before police officers can make it by road or on foot. Another major advantage is that they can deploy ground forces more strategically to those places which actually need police intervention, since drones can be sent for preliminary assessment of situations.
And most importantly, drones reduce the time that police officers have to physically spend outside in the field, thus minimizing exposure and the risk they incur while doing their duties.
In Mumbai and Thane, the police are using ideaForge’s Megaphone Drone for surveillance procedures. This drone has a dual-payload setup; an HD vision camera, as well as a Megaphone. With this, they can spot even small crowds or gatherings in the city, and at the same time they are able to disperse them instantly by making announcements via the megaphone. They are also using drone surveillance to track the movement of people within the several containment zones in the city. Any contact of people inside these areas with people on the outside is a containment concern, and that is being prevented with the help of our eyes in the sky.
The Delhi police are aggressively using drones for monitoring crowds during the day, especially in the commercial sectors which are reopening in the city. And at night they use thermal imaging systems mounted on drones to crackdown on those who are in violation of the strict curfew in place.
A lot of other state police forces have adopted ideaForge drones, in light of recent events. These include the police forces of Jalandhar, Solan, Jaipur, Kolkata, Assam, Nagpur, Sangli, and Visakhapatnam. In their current capacity, they are utilizing drones for daytime surveillance, and to ensure that the social-distancing guidelines are being followed.
Police forces across the country would have to send officers to deal with every situation earlier, but now so many of them are easily dealt with by simply sending in a drone. It’s faster, it’s effective, and reduces human exertion considerably.
Securing people versus Securing data
It’s obvious that the steep increase in the use of digital technology has led to a crisis in data protection. Using drones for security and surveillance has raised questions along the same lines. In countries like the USA and UK, a law enforcement drone policy has been actively evolving recently. Across the Pacific Ocean, deploying includes applications like border security as well.
Police forces in India have already begun using drones to keep an eye on large events to begin with, and in some cases, to improve the quality of night patrols. It is possible to bring forth a robust law enforcement drone policy in India to keep the largest democracy safe, even with the current size of the police force.
In many ways, this technological intervention is just the beginning. India is the fastest growing large economy in the world right now, and our focus is towards development at a high velocity. Drones for law enforcement, especially while maintaining order on the ground, are critical to ensure that things keep moving smoothly in order to make that progress possible. With more people moving to major cities, one of the first things to breakdown will be traffic management and population density. Without proper police monitoring, it will come in the way of how we function- are we going to have 3 hour long commutes resulting in a loss of thousands of working hours in a day?
Deploying police drones to execute the smallest and simplest of tasks is a reliable step forward to ensure that life works for everyone in India.