India seems to have taken a leaf out of China’s book in combating the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic — using drones to keep an eye on people to make sure that they adhere to the 3-week long nationwide lockdown. Some authorities, such as the Delhi Police and Srinagar Police were reportedly using drones even before Prime Minister Modi announced the curfew. Some states have also used drones to sprinkle disinfectants at places that are more vulnerable to the virus. Following are all the reported instances where drones were used to surveil people or make public safety announcements to curtail their movement on the streets:

  • The Delhi Police used drones around the Jamia Milia Islamia area — a popular site for anti-CAA protests — to monitor the situation in the area even before the Prime Minister announced the 3-week long nationwide lockdown to contain spread of the pandemic, according to a Mint report.
  • After the nationwide lockdown was announced, the Delhi Police used drones yet again to warn people against violating the curfew according to news agency PTI.
  • Mumbai police used drones to make important announcements related to the lockdown and keep an eye out on congested areas in the city, Hindustan Times reported.
  • In Jammu and Kashmir — which was still reeling from a 7-month long internet shutdown — police used drones earlier this week to make public safety announcements asking people to stay indoors, The Tribune reported.

Multiple states used drones to spray disinfectants: Apart from surveilling potential lockdown violators, several states are also using them to spray disinfectants at specific areas.

  • In Chhattisgarh, the government has initiated a Rs 2.3 crore project to use drones to spray disinfectants at hospital areas, government offices and buildings among others, news agency IANS reported.
  • In Tamil Nadu, the government is carrying out pilot studies on spraying disinfectants on the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, and the Greater Chennai Corporation buildings, according to the same report.
  • Last week, Indore’s civic body hired a couple of drones to spray disinfectants especially on vegetable markets and crowded streets, News18 reported.

This is not the first time that drones have been deployed by authorities. Last year, the Delhi Police had used drones at multiple locations to record people protesting against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. According to The Hindu, there are currently 19,553 registered drones in India.

Read: Tech & Policy in India, and the COVID-19 Pandemic