Surveyor General of India, Lt Gen (Retd) Girish Kumar, said on Friday that the government had initiated the process of mapping the Indian villages using drones under the SVAMITVA scheme, a move that would prove to be a game-changer in the country’s history.
Addressing the webinar organised by the industry chamber Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), ‘Aerial Mapping of Villages Using Drones’, Lt Gen Kumar said, “Drones gave us a very good platform and flexibility to map households with a rural population. This scheme being undertaken by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj on a pan-India basis will be revolutionary.”
Highlighting the salient features of the project, Lt Gen Kumar said that the high levels of accuracy achieved using drones have been proven during trials and pilots conducted over the past three years in Maharashtra and Haryana. The state governments will be the owners of the data and may use it for various developmental activities, where the sky was the limit, he observed.
Emphasising on the regulatory framework and use of high-end technology, Lt Gen Kumar said it had to be ensured that each drone was registered with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and all rules were complied with. “If artificial intelligence can be used for enabling automatic feature extraction with the same accuracy standards, then that will be a big jump in technology,” he added.
Lt Gen Kumar also pointed out the crucial role to be played by state governments in this mapping of villages. He added that the SVAMITVA scheme will also create a large employment opportunity for the local youth.
Make India World’s Drone Capital
Amber Dubey, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation said that the government aimed to make India the drone capital of the world. Inviting young entrepreneurs and start-ups to actively participate in the drone industry and solve various challenges, he said, “Entrepreneurs should focus on agriculture, disaster management, healthcare, logistics, law enforcement and infrastructure sectors that offer great opportunities for drones. Entrepreneurs should also look at innovation and reducing costs, and should also explore opportunities in export markets.”
Dubey added that the industry should focus on counter-drone technology as well. He said that the government would soon come out with guidelines on night-time operations for drones on an experimental basis.
The event also witnessed a discussion on a potential collaboration between the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Survey of India towards capacity building, skill development and training in the use of drones.
Rajan Luthra, Chair, FICCI Committee on Drones, while moderating the session, said that SVAMITVA was the largest project using drones anywhere in the world. “This government initiative has the potential to impact the entire rural population covering 900 million people in India and transform the drone industry.”
Ankit Mehta, Co-Chair, FICCI Committee on Drones said that drones would become the new gold standard in aerial mapping. “Security is paramount, and this being a very sensitive activity, we need to ensure that our country’s data is protected. Outsourcing to a large set of service providers will ease the burden on the exchequer and will become a huge opportunity for the industry,” he added.
According to some estimates, India currently has nearly 40,000 drones and the number is expected to jump to a million by 2025. At the beginning of this year, around 20,000 drones registered on the MoCA’s Digital Sky platform after it was made mandatory for owners to “enlist” or register their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Drones are increasingly being used in India for surveillance by law enforcement, spraying of pesticides, sanitising of areas potentially contaminated by bacteria and viruses and mapping for infrastructure projects.