Though a pizza outlet in South Mumbai came under the spotlight and the police radar after it recently delivered pizza to one of its customers using a drone, the technology, it seems, isn't new to the city. A group of youngsters has been helping the police for over a year in crowd management and keeping surveillance during major festivals using these very same four-rotor drones.
Rajesh Mane, a third-year dropout from VJTI college who is in his early 20s, started this initiative by collaborating with a couple of friends. "Drones are very common in foreign countries and it's only now that they are slowly being known and used here in India. We have been assisting the city police for over a year in keeping surveillance and crowd management during dahi handi, Ganesh visarjan at Girgaum and Dadar chowpatty and during marathon events," Mane had told dna in an interview last November.
The issue of deliveries via drones came into the limelight after online retail giant Amazon in December announced that the company would be using drones for delivering its products in the near future. Following this, Francisco Pizzeria, a pizza outlet in Lower Parel, video-recorded a drone-assisted pizza delivery, which went viral and came under the radar of the city police.
The three youngsters started developing drones in a small office in Belapur leased to them by an uncle of one of them. After pooling resources from their own pockets, which ran into a couple of lakhs, they made their first drone fly last year. Besides helping the police, their passion then took a form of entrepreneurship, and the trio is providing the service to real estate companies and others for videography at a fraction of the cost they would have incurred had they used a helicopter.
Industry experts claim there are no specific laws regarding operation of drones in India at present. "However, laws exist with regard to limitations of flying altitudes and zones. Drone operators should, therefore, see to it that they have all the permissions in place," said a DGCA official.
In the US, the National Transportation Safety Board recently dismissed a case in which the US aviation regulator FAA sought to fine a drone operator $10,000 for using a lightweight, remotely-piloted drone to capture aerial footage of the University of Virginia as part of an advertisement for the university's medical school