GARUD gives a drone-powered to India’s coronavirus fight

This is an open letter to PMO, DGCA, AAI, MoCA and NIC. We, at ideaForge, offer our heartiest congratulations over the successful launch and execution of GARUD. GARUD would streamline the process of obtaining critical flight permissions for drones. This novel portal would go a long way in bringing clarity and structure within the use of drones in the fight against coronavirus.

The current coronavirus crisis might be the biggest challenge we have ever faced, as a nation, as citizens, and as a part of a thriving business community. Every day brings with it a new opportunity to fight back and set a precedent.

We are proud of our country, India, as it has led by example, even in these troubling times, not just in spirit but also in action. It was one of the first and the largest to take the decisive step of complete lockdown. The country has become a shining example in forethought and targeted project management.

Along these lines, the GARUD initiative is pioneering and innovative in its own right. Completed within a record 8-days, the DGCA, MoCA, AAI and NIC have shown the world how fast our technology and ingenuity can scale-up.

GARUD helps central and state authorities with fast-tracking drone-flight permissions. The concerned and front-line personnel can get drone-ready in quick-time with GARUD. This will help prioritize hotspot surveillance, drone-backed message broadcasting and proper lockdown management.

India’s adaptability with drone-technology has given us the necessary edge in the COVID-19 fightback.

1.  The first drone-advantage lays with live lockdown surveillance, day or night. Drones could help the authorities monitor the situation in hotspots and containment zones in real-time.

a. There were times when direct ground-surveillance was impaired due to structural (small lanes in hotspots), topographical (challenging terrain, especially in states like Himachal Pradesh) and personnel (reduce on-street police and emergency service professionals).
b. This created blind-spots wherein lockdown and social distancing violators could risk the health of their fellow citizens (creating the risk of cluster spreads).
c. Drone’s high-resolution visuals and thermal imaging, with multi-zoom capabilities, helped plug in these gaps and improve the total area under surveillance by up to 16x.

2. The second drone-advantage lay in crowd management and engagement.
a. Through direct or drone surveillance, the authorities could easily spot lockdown and social-distancing violations. The drone’s dual payload (high-resolution visuals + megaphone) could help mark the violator on a nearby police officer’s laptop.
b. The megaphone on the drone was connected to the police officers’ walkie-talkie. The officer could directly interact with the people (violators) and ask them to disperse or maintain the mandatory procedures like wearing a mask or practicing social-distancing.
c. Drones proved to be effective in crowd management as people were more likely to listen to overhead drones. They quickly dispersed and were found to be more vigilant when visiting markets or on the streets.

3. The third drone-advantage was ensuring the safety and security of our brave front-line warriors.
a. Day and night drone surveillance, especially in hotspots, helped keep the police and emergency service professionals at safe distances. The officers could manage, with the help of these drones (within visual line of sight), hotspots without direct contact.
b. A normal police officer met more than a hundred random people on the streets. Megaphone-carrying drones helped the officers maintain social distancing by indirectly (from a distance) interacting with random people (on the streets, outside medical stores and in markets).
c. We look forward to channeling our support towards GARUD, the world’s next-big replicable model in government-technology integration.

GARUD’s fast-track streamlining of drone permissions would help improve the response for possible future pandemics and disasters. The intelligence collected, as a direct result of this initiative, would help strengthen risk assessment and disaster preparedness.

GARUD has become a milestone along the long pursued path towards strengthening our indigenous tech-infrastructure. This novel initiative of progressive (drone flight-permission) exemptions should continue as a beacon, even post-COVID-19. It would help build a better equipped, more responsive and evolving disaster management, response and relief system.

Open letter created for:

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)

Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA)

Airports Authority of India (AAI)

National Informatics Centre (NIC)

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