Use of drones to spray anti-locust pesticides has been allowed (Representative image)
NEW DELHI: In a possible first, the government has permitted use of drones to combat the menace of desert locust invasion that is threatening to destroy crops across the Afro-Asian region with border Indian states also badly hit.
The aviation ministry has given “conditional exemption to government entity for use of remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) for anti-locust operations,” including to spray anti-locust pesticides. The agriculture ministry had on May 20 sought permission to use RPAS, or drones, for anti-locust operations, which aviation secretary PS Kharola gave the very next day “in view of the urgency of the matter”.
The agriculture ministry’s directorate of plant protection, quarantine and storage (Faridabad) has been given exemption to use battery-operated rotary-wing drones for aerial surveillance, photography, public announcements and/or aerial spraying of anti-locust pesticides. The conditions include that the drones being used for the purpose should at no time pose a threat to crops, livestock, property or any other manned/unmanned aircraft.
Details of every RPA fight, along with details of the pesticides sprayed, will have to be uploaded on DGCA’s Digital Sky Platform within seven days of undertaking the flight.
“The RPA shall not exceed a total all-up weight of 25 kg. (It) shall be equipped with an automatic return-to-home feature in case of any loss of the command-and-control link. The operation shall be restricted to a height of 200 feet above ground level. RPA shall be operated within visual line of sight at all times.
The use of drones for this purpose has been barred in places like within 5-km radius of airports at Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad; within 3 km from the perimeter of any (other) civil private or defence airports; within 25 km from international border unless written clearance is obtained from the defence ministry and within 5 km from Vijay Chowk in Delhi.