The Mumbai fire brigade plans to use drones to carry out surveillance of areas in case of fire or other disasters in the future, said a senior official from the department. The government, in August, had put in place regulations for operations of remotely piloted aircraft to come into effect from December 1.
The official stated, “From the last two years my team had been waiting to hear from the civil aviation authorities on the use of drones. Now that the norms regarding their usage have been relaxed in the new policy, a major hurdle has been cleared. For now, we plan to purchase drones which are currently available in the market. These can at least give us an overview of the situation and accordingly, our resources and rescue teams can be dispatched in an emergency.”
The department is specifically looking for drones which can carry hose lines (water pipes). This means the drones must be heavier and have sufficient lifting capabilities. “For instance, in the massive fire in Aarey on Monday, had we been able to use drones, we could have gauged the intensity of the situation and responded more efficiently,” explained the official.
The Free Press Journal had earlier reported that the fire brigade is in talks with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) for the design and development of a customised drone. According to the official, “As per the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act (MMC), there is no policy which provides financial assistance for any development and research work. The IIT-B wanted the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to help them financially to develop the customised drone. But since there were Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) restrictions on drone usage, no follow-up was done.”
Under the DGCA’s new policy on drones, users must register their drones, as also the pilots of drones as well as their owners. It has set up a dedicated online registration portal, ‘DigitalSky’, to give permissions for flying drones. Unioin civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted, “Happy to announce that we are launching the Online Registration Portal for #Drone Flying Permission, #DigitalSky from TODAY. The platform is now live.” For drones of micro size and above categories, operators are required to register on the Digital Sky portal, he said in another tweet.