When the raging waters of Krishna threatened the lives of several villagers in Athani early this month, a drone-based rescue effort anchored by a techie along with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) saved the day.
Apart from providing assistance in locating stranded villagers, Prathap N M also assisted rescue personnel in navigating the dangerously swollen river.
Having won several accolades in global drone competitions, Prathap, a native of Mandya, said he rushed to Athani with his drones after acquaintances sought help.
Speaking to DH, the 22-year old Prathap - who is now part of the Bengaluru-based startup Aerowhale Space and Tech - explained that he used small drones equipped with devices such as thermal cameras to aid the rescue effort. “People from several villages were stranded after the outflow from the Koyna dam rose to 6 lakh cusecs. I tagged along with the NDRF team to aid them in searching for stranded people,” he said.
Pavan Bhaskar, the NDRF sub-inspector whom Prathap assisted, recalled how drones helped them in finding villagers stranded at Janawad. “We headed towards the village at 4 pm and were unaware of where the villagers were. Prathap used his drone to locate the people and we were able to rescue them before the sunset,” he said.
“Initially I thought he was joking when he said that he was going to assist us with drones. After a couple of days, we realised that drones could be such an asset.”
Shivanand Patil, the Janawad gram panchayat member, hailed the use of drones. “It helped locate three people in our village after we thought everyone was evacuated. If not for the drone, the two women and a man would have found it difficult to survive,” he said.