New Delhi- Delhi Police now wants to watch over the 'trouble-makers' from the sky, Indian media reported today. Burdened with an increasing number of protests, the department plans to procure improvised aircraft, better known as drones, which will be mounted with high-definition cameras, sources said.
The drones will be used to keep an eye on protesters and the general public during events involving crowds. The footage will be used for post-incident analysis. Police currently use private cameramen or borrows footage from TV channels in most cases.
If all goes well, a global tender for the drones will be floated and the deal will be finalized in a few months time. Although specifications have not been finalized, sources said the department would prefer drones that are less than two meters long, one meter wide and weigh less than 2kg. These drones are likely to fly at a speed of around 40km per hour, sources said.
"The project is in its initial stages. We are looking into the feasibility and safety of this equipment before going ahead. Top officers will give their nod after we submit a report on drones," said a source.
The drone cameras would provide images and videos with clarity to enable cops to zoom in on an individual suspect in a crowd from a distance of more than 100 meters, sources said. The drones will be operated and controlled from a ground station through remote control.
These drones, sources said, will be designed to fly every 15-30 minutes and have a capacity to cover an area of more than 500 square meters and capture live feeds of the crowd below. The videos will be simultaneously relayed to the control room. The machines would be able to fly up to a height of 100 meters, accessing corners where the police cannot reach.
Delhi Police handles thousands of protests and rallies every year. In more than 50% of cases, cops need to conduct a post-event analysis during an enquiry. In 2013, police handled 1,467 demonstrations, 683 rallies, 1,183 sit-ins and around 6,500 other arrangements which required electronic surveillance.
"Many such protests witness violence and require us to identify people who are either hurt or violent. For example, we had to extensively study the videos to establish who was at fault in the cases such as the recent AAP protest at BJP headquarters or the raid carried out by a mob led by MLA Somnath Bharti," said an officer.
Drones, also called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are used by Indian Air Force for surveillance of the city during Republic Day and Independence Day, sources said. Recently, these drones were introduced in the Panna National park to track tigers and keep a watch on the movement of poachers. Gujarat and Mumbai police too have been using these devices. Recently, Mumbai police tied up with a drone company for aerial surveillance of the Mumbai marathon.
However, police sources said they would want to be convinced about safety and efficacy of the devices before pushing for them. "We are clearing our doubts about safety, privacy and legal aspects of this project. We will go ahead as soon as we are sure that these units would be safe in all respects," the officer said.