India’s lockdown exit strategy – Top 5 ways drones can ensure success

The lockdown exit strategy must be executed with precision and efficiency. Drones have been utilized as key enablers and enforcers of this coronavirus-induced nation-wide lockdown. Drones will be, once again, a quintessential element in enablement and management of this lockdown exit strategy.

The Ministry of Family Health and Welfare (MoFHW) has identified 170 hotspots in the country. More than 75% of these hotspots have large outbreaks and the rest have cluster spreads. There are 207 non-hotspot zones with smaller clusters.

The entire country has been largely divided into red, orange and green zones. Red, orange and green zones have increasing levels (in the order mentioned) of allowed activities. If there aren’t any new cases reported in a red zone for 14 days, it would be re-categorized as orange. Another 14 days without new coronavirus cases and it will move to a ‘green zone’.

The country requires a strong exit-strategy not just in thought but also on-ground. The lockdown has been largely effective in flattening the curve till now. However, there are fears that the post-lockdown phase could trigger a resurgence of Covid-19 positive cases. The lockdown, itself, is straining small businesses, daily wage workers and overall industries. All this puts the government in a Catch-22 situation. How to effectively re-open the country with a progressive exit-strategy?

How drones can help enable India’s lockdown exit strategy

ideaForge drones, as mentioned in multiple cases and scenarios, have been critical in enforcing social distancing and lockdown compliance in hotspots like Worli-Koliwada, Dharavi, Thane (Mumbai), Sangli, Guwahati, Jaipur, Visakhapatnam, and Delhi (to name a few).

Till now these drones have been efficiently:
· enforcing social-distancing in markets and congregation areas;
· surveying hotspots and containment zones for lockdown violations;
· reducing reaction and response time for on-ground forces (when the drone detects unusual activities;
· reducing the coronavirus infection risks for front-line police officials;
· delivering essential items and medical goods to people in lockdown or to emergency personnel; etc.

Central and local authorities, with synchronized essential and emergency services, must prepare and implement the on-coming exit-strategy.
Here are the top 5 ways drones can help fine-tune and boost India’s lockdown exit-strategy.

1. Day-night drone surveillance and reporting

Each zone has a 14-day moratorium period, in-line with the minimum quarantine for a possible coronavirus case. It’s a precautionary measure so that isolated cases don’t become clusters. This is the difference, as per the exit-strategy, between zones.

The local authorities must enforce strict surveillance to ensure that people don’t violate the lockdown for any non-essential need. They need to be vigilant day and night. ideaForge drones have helped municipal corporations in Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, etc. with such day and night lockdown surveillance.
· The drone is equipped with high-resolution thermal imaging which can easily spot people on the streets even at night. The police, with drones, can maintain 24-hour surveillance of multiple hotspots.
· Such drone surveillance dramatically reduces the on-ground response time for violations.
· It has also helped cut down on theft during this lockdown. The police can track and trace (even moving objects) such suspicious activities through overhead drones.
· It’s important to sustain the isolation and containment of hotspots. The police and local authorities use drones to ensure that no unauthorized people enter or leave hotspots.

2. Drones as resource multiplier

Front-line personnel like police, sanitation, medical and logistics services have already been stretched thin. The authorities must survey hotspots, manage naka-bandi, check social-distancing within markets, ensure uninterrupted essential goods supply, etc. And the work requires utmost attention for the sake of the safety of these front-line personnel in particular and the overall citizens at large.

A recent circular in Maharashtra has directed police officials over the age of 55 to take a mandatory paid leave. This was necessitated by an increase in Covid-19 positive cases within law enforcement personnel. This puts further strain on the essential service and local authorities, especially during the enforcement period of the critical exit-strategy.

Drones, here, can act as the ideal resource-multiplier. Drones can:
· increase the total area under surveillance by 16x;
· boost the visual coverage area of normal beat-patrolling by 10x to 25x;
· improve the on-ground response time to drone-marked incidence reports by more than 50%;

This essentially means that only a handful of officers with a few drones can effectively survey and check the movement in heavy-population zones. This would keep the strict surveillance and reporting, within hotspots, at its peak despite any change or decrease in personnel strength.

3. Drone-enabled megaphones

“Please don’t gather on the roof-tops”, “Maintain 6-feet distance in the market”, “Wear your mask immediately”, such (multi-lingual) messages had become commonplace during the lockdown. ideaForge drones took this to a much better and more innovative level.

Police and local authorities could deploy drones with dual payloads – high-resolution surveillance (HD camera) and mounted megaphones. The megaphone was directly linked to an on-ground officer’s walkie-talkie. The on-ground control station would receive the live drone-surveillance feed. The officer could check for lockdown and social-distance violations and directly engage with them through the megaphone. If the officer spots a youth loitering in the streets, the drone could position itself and advise the youth to go back home.

This has immense applications during the exit strategy implementation.

· Spreading situation awareness – The local authorities and police can safely broadcast important updates and messages using drones.
· Crowd directions and monitoring – Authorities can direct people to maintain strict social-distancing in markets or the ‘orange’ or ‘green’ zone privileges might end up getting revoked.
· Direct engagement with violators – The police can engage with on-street or in-lane violators in quick time so that the situation is contained without any delay.

4. Safety of police and emergency services

Front-line police and emergency officials have been tirelessly working in the fight against coronavirus. This fight, and its complexities, would only escalate during the exit-strategy enforcement.

In Maharashtra, close to 100 police personnel have contracted the virus, and counting. This scenario is repeated in multiple states. A police official might come in direct contact with around 150 people in a day. Drones help mitigate this risk for the front-line coronavirus warriors.

Drones act as a:
· Resource-multiplier – It de-stresses and decongests the workload of the average emergency service professional.
· Social-distancing enabler – It helps cut down direct interaction between police and random folks on the street.
· Hotspot management tool – It keeps the emergency services people safely distant and, yet, actively involved in hotspot management.

Drones will continue to be a big factor through the successful exit-strategy implementation of India’s lockdown.

5. Thermal imaging for body-temperature scans

Quick case identification, testing, isolation, tracing and recovery are the inherent coronavirus fightback apparatus. All other medical, technological and regulatory interventions are directed to simplify and streamline the functioning of this apparatus.

Drones, during the lockdown exit strategy formulation and execution, would enable quick case identification and reporting. Drones carry high resolution imaging cameras whose feed can pass through AI tools to detect unusual crowd patterns. Authorities can scan individuals using handheld temperature scanners to detect high body temperature. This can accelerate the authorities’ response time of diffusing the crowd buildup and possibly prevent the spread of Covid-19.

This will enable community and mass vigilance, with accelerated testing and tracing. This would hasten the transformation from the red zone to green zone and eventually to subsiding the overall surge of the virus.

Every step taken during this lockdown and towards its eventual ‘exit’ and end is momentous. Drones ensure that none of these steps is misplaced and we effectively flatten the curve and put a curb on the virus. This is the way and ideaForge drones can help make the process seamless.

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