HYDERABAD: After weeks of deliberation, the State government has zeroed in on two Hyderabad-based drone startups to help the forest department identify illegal activities and suspicious movement around restricted forests areas at night. Marut Drones and Astrosoc will take up works on a pilot-basis in the forests of Eturunagaram in Mulugu and Kawal forest in Mancherial, respectively.
The Kawal Tiger Reserve has been a hotbed of illegal activities, including poaching, with multiple incidents of use of electrified snares to kill tigers coming to the fore regularly. While the State Forest Protection Committee has beefed up its vigil, tracing the poachers, who move only in the dark hours or take obscure routes through the wilderness, remains an uphill task.
Officials also said that the drones would carry out noiseless search operations and also collect information on stray tigers and leopards. Furthermore, the drones could also help the Haritha Haram project by spraying seeds, calculating the crown diameter, and height of each tree using stereo-pair data.
As of now, the selected startups are planning to do a recce of the forests and ascertain the situation at hand, before applying for permissions to operate drones from concerned authorities.
However, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) guidelines for use of drones could become a hindrance for the State government’s plans. Officials said that it was being taken up on a pilot-basis, and not on full-scale, because of the regulations which do not allow drones to ‘discharge or drop substances’, without permission from the authorities.
The State government has been requesting the DGCA to grant permissions for the same, and officials say the regulatory body is expected to come up with a revised set of guidelines soon.
Not long ago, the forest department had touched base with the ITEC department, to discuss various issues it was facing in the this regard. Soon after, a meeting was held with forest department officials and various startups at T-Hub in September.