Niharika Kolte Alekar
Meet Our Mission Rakshak Team Helping Curb COVID-19 Along With Pune Police
Our devoted COVID drone warriors have been working on Mission Rakshak with Pune Police since 18th May 2020 for the aerial monitoring of containment zones to ensure that social distancing is being followed during the COVID-19 lockdown. The project is being carried out in collaboration with the Drone Federation of India (DFI). Thanks to drone surveillance, the risk of local authorities being exposed to the corona virus is minimized.
Currently, we have Mandar J., Deepak N., Dattatray M., Shubham M. and Deva B. on the field who are working alongside Pune Police and giving them real-time information. Each COVID drone warrior has been assigned to one of the five high-risk zones in Pune where they are monitoring the city with the help of drones. They have also been following route marches carried out by Pune Police, RAF and SRPF forces.
Despite the wide reach of the pandemic, social distancing is not being followed strictly in all areas, especially the containment zones, as per Pune Police. Some of the localities are very densely populated with tight clusters of buildings and very narrow lanes, making surveillance challenging and highly unsafe for authorities. Drones are helping monitor these neighbourhoods in a safer manner.
These zones, namely Swargate, Bund Garden, Dattawadi, Yerwada and Kondhwa, comprise a total area of more than 150 square kilometres with a population of 700,000 people. Our COVID drone warriors report that inside sealed-off areas, non-compliance of social distancing was as high as 60-80%, despite policemen stationed right outside. The sighting of drones has discouraged social gatherings on terraces or on the streets as residents are aware of their movements being monitored. As per our team, since drone surveillance started, flouting of social distancing norms has reduced considerably in containment zones. This signals a great leap in terms of safety of the society.
Our team is giving police real-time updates so that they can be immediately deployed in specific localities to raise awareness about social distancing. Besides, quantifiable and actionable data is also being provided daily to Pune Police, totalling to more than 50 hours of footage covering five zones over one week. Says Mr. Pathan, Assistant Police Inspector, Crime Branch, “Despite the obvious threat to our lives, when duty calls, we have to be there to protect the society. However, these drones are helping save lives of our force too by helping us monitor neighbourhoods in high-risk zones.”
While they are at the frontline alongside the police and armed forces, each of our COVID drone warriors is equipped with protective gear such as masks, gloves and sanitisers, besides following a no-touch policy during all on-field interactions. They are also travelling solo to minimise risk.
Says Shubham, a cinematographer and travel aficionado, “Working with Pune Police on such an important project has been a very rewarding experience. It feels good to be able to help the society and possibly save lives through our work.”
Deva, a seasoned drone pilot with experience handling large crowds at weddings, adds, “I have worked previously with Pune Police but this time around, I can see a definite impact of my work. Under Volar Alta’s direction, we have been able to function as an organized team and it feels great to be giving back to the community in times of crisis.”