In a world driven by data, government organisations, commercial firms and private citizens are increasingly turning to drones generate critically important information to help with decision-making.
No longer a novelty or a recreational toy, drones have wide applications from land surveying to disaster management to tax collection, explained Dr Giridhar Sharma, CEO of Icon Surveyors, a drone company which began operations in 1996.
Dr Sharma, who was speaking on the sidelines of a lecture on Thursday night, on the application of drones in civil engineering, explained that India is on the verge of being the fastest growing markets for drones.
There are currently 18-20 commercial drone companies in Bengaluru, the majority of which are engaged in surveying work. However, Sharma cautioned that the number of operators is set to increase in coming years, placing demands on a regulatory system system which many operators complained was broken.
Every drone operator is supposed to obtain flying permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), but the online permissions system is dogged by inoperability.
"DGCA guidelines need to be amended. The proposed digital sky initiative which will bring accountability to drone flights needs to be implemented sooner," said Yuvraj G N, project engineer and drone pilot for Icon.
With the DGCA’s system on the blink, drone operators usually take to informing police about upcoming flights, which Yuvraj added was an ad hoc way of dealing with an immediate problem.
“We fully expect drones to cut down on manpower in the near future. Consider a 500-acre plot of land. To survey such a landmass using traditional terrestrial methods, a team of 10-15 would require a month's time. Using a drone, however, a single drone operator could have that parcel of land surveyed in 2-3 days, with another 2 days to process the data for the client,” he said.
The BBMP is inclined to agree. In July 2018, the Palike announced that it will use unmanned aerial systems (UAVs) to survey the city, in order to better identify those buildings which have flouted civil codes and to help the corporation with property tax collection.
While the Rs 800 cr project has since stalled, drone companies say that there is no dearth of work.
Icon said that 30% of its work is for the government while the remaining 60% are for private companies or individuals.