Railways to deploy ‘Ninja UAVs’ for surveillance

Updated on Aug 18, 2020 07:50 PM IST

NINJA UAVs are lightweight and economical micro contraptions built for mapping and surveillance.

A man wearing a face masks looks at trains parked at New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS) as Indian Railways extend operations during lockdown in New Delhi.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
A man wearing a face masks looks at trains parked at New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS) as Indian Railways extend operations during lockdown in New Delhi.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAnisha Dutta

Indian Railways has started deploying “Ninja UAVs” (unmanned aerial vehicles) for establishing a drone-based surveillance system in a bid to intensify its security mechanism across its network, according to officials aware of the development.

NINJA UAVs are lightweight and economical micro contraptions built for mapping and surveillance.

Drone beats have been designed based on railway assets, the sensitivity of the area, and its criminal infestation, the officials said.

“Drone surveillance technology has emerged as an important and cost-effective tool for security surveillance over large areas with limited manpower. On a pilot basis, we have started with the Mumbai Division of Central Railway (CR). We have recently procured two Ninja UAVs for better security and surveillance in areas such as station premises, railway tracks, yards, workshops, etc. A team of four staff of RPF (Railway Protection Force), Mumbai, has been trained for flying drones, surveillance, and maintenance. These drones are capable of real-time tracking, video streaming and can also be operated on an automatic fail-safe mode,” said an official.

A drone camera can cover a large area, which may require up 10 RPF personnel.

The exercise may lead to a substantial improvement in utilisation of scarce manpower, said a note on drone surveillance issued by the ministry.

“Drone acts as an ‘eye in the sky’ and monitor an entire stretch. If any suspicious suspicious activity is noticed, it can be intimated to the nearest RPF post or division to apprehend a criminal. A similar incident recently occurred at Wadibunder Yard, when a criminal was found to be trying to steal from a stationary railway coach,” the note added.

RPF has planned extensive use of drones for railway security across its zones.

At present, nine drones have been procured by RPF at a cost of Rs 31.87 lakh for South Eastern Railway (SER), CE, and South Western Railway (SWR) zones and Modern Coaching Factory, Raebareili.

Plans are afoot to buy 17 mores drones in the near future at a cost of Rs 97.52 lakh.

“Drone deployment can be a force multiplier for security personnel. Drones can help in the inspection of railway assets and safety of yards, workshops, car sheds, etc. Drones can also be used to launch surveillance on criminal and anti-social activities such as gambling, random throwing of garbage, hawking, among others, in railway premises,” the note said.

Drones can be deployed for data collection analysis and may prove to be useful in vulnerable sections for safe operations of trains.

“Drones may be pressed into service at disaster sites for helping in rescue, recovery, and restoration operations and coordinating of efforts of various agencies. Drones can be useful while undertaking mapping of railway assets to assess the encroachments on railway properties. During largescale crowd management efforts, drones may give vital inputs such as the magnitude of a gathering, probable time of arrival and dispersal based on which such an exercise can be planned and executed. Drones were also used to enforce lockdown restrictions and monitor the movement of migrants back to their native places following the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak,” the note stated.

So far, RPF authorities have trained 19 of their personnel in the operation and maintenance of drones.

Of the 19 RPF staff, four have received licences for flying drones and another six are undergoing training for a similar exercise.

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