(This News Article Is Originally Posted on The Tribune by Ajay Banerjee)
In an important development, the Indian Army has successfully tested an indigenous drone for autonomous delivery of load over Punjab.
The test was carried out for delivery of Covid-19 items.
Crucially, the test proved an ability to operate at far-off ranges, beyond visual line of sight, meaning the drone was remotely controlled either by radar or another bigger UAV above it and possibly the payload the drone could carry.
On the morning of April 16, three such ‘Made in India’ drones were tested over three villages of Abohar in Fazilka district in the Southwestern part of Punjab. The task was ‘anti-Covid’ operations and to deliver essential supplies, including masks, liquid-sanitiser and medical canisters, sources from the area have confirmed.
Sources said the Army coordinated these tests with the district administration, it is clear such operations can be on a large scale by increasing the number of drones and enhancing the endurance and payload of each drone. The Army uses a few bigger drones for surveillance.
The villages of Gobindgarh, Balluana and Malukpura are located at distance of up to 25 km from the launch point and fall beyond visual line of sight range from base. These tests would probably have been one of the first-of-its-kind in India with a large medical delivery cargo carried by autonomous drones.
As per sources, the crucial part was releasing the payload with pinpoint accuracy. It was made to fly over the earmarked dropping zone, made to descend to a suitable height and release its payloads. Sources from the ground confirm that the payloads were received in good order.
The entire operation did not involve any human contact at the village zone, meaning the coordinates were fed into the drone to drop the payload and return to its base. Such a drone could be used to send supplies to a small locality or a village without exposing the relief workers to people infected with the virus.
It can also transport back crucial blood samples and other supplies from isolated places. The civil administration which included the Tehsildar and the DSP of Abohar and elected members of the three villages participated in the trials. Load carriage UAVs operating beyond visual line of sight ranges will prove very beneficial not only under the Covid-19 operations but also to support humanitarian disasters all across India in the years ahead.