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Varanasi, India uses drones to sanitise COVID-19 sensitive areas

The Varanasi smart city is spraying sanitiser around COVID-19-sensitive parts of the city under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM).

Given the limited options for transportation during the lockdown period, these drones were specially airlifted from Chennai through cargo flights with permission from the Ministry of Civil Aviation. A seven-member team with two drones was made operational and trial runs were completed on 17 April.

According to a press release, spraying sanitiser through drones is prioritised for hot spots and containment areas identified by the district administration or the Chief Medical Officer. This is followed by isolation areas, quarantined areas, shelter homes, and other places where manual spraying is difficult.

The areas where drones are to be deployed is decided by a team of Varanasi Nagar Nigam officials.

The release explained that the drone team first visits the area planned to be sanitised for the day and makes a quick visual survey of the terrain, buildings, and surroundings then chalks out a flight path to be followed by the drone.

The drone is then filled with a chemical solution consisting of 1% sodium hypochlorite. The drone is then calibrated and set ready to fly. The drones are flown using a remote-control device by experienced drone pilots in the planned flight path, the release added.

The drone sprays the sanitiser through its four nozzles. After every flight (lasting approximately 15 to 20 minutes), the drones are called back to refill the chemicals and replace the battery pack. The drones are then moved to the next location to resume the flying/spraying.

The flight path of the drones and the area covered are controlled and recorded in a handheld device with GIS maps on the backend, which is plugged to the remote controller.

The release said that the vehicles used for drone operations are fitted with GPS and GSM-based wireless cameras through which the entire route of the drones and their operations are centrally monitored from the Kashi integrated command and control centre, now converted to COVID-19 War Room.

The sanitary inspector and other team members report to the nodal officer before and after drone operations are carried out at each designated location.

The capital costs of the equipment were provided by the agency concerned, and the city administration had to incur expenditure on operational expenses (service costs and chemical costs).

Drones are unmanned vehicles which can fly the way helicopters do and can be operated by trained personnel using a specially designed remote control. Drones which were designed for spraying pesticides for agricultural use are now being used to spray disinfectant fluid around quarantined areas and isolation wards during the pandemic.

Under SCM, the Pune Municipal Corporation has developed a mobile application named Saiyam to track home-quarantined citizens and ensure they are staying at home.

As OpenGov reported, the city administration has appointed dedicated teams for five zones to conduct a follow-up with people under home quarantine on a daily basis.

The teams will seek updates from quarantined people on their health status and details of persons in contact with them. For persons sporting the home quarantine stamp, the teams will check if separate food, bed, utensils, clothes and washrooms are provided to them.

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