The Morbi City Police in Gujarat arrested two people on April 11 night for transporting mawa tobacco (a mixture of areca nut and tobacco) tied to a drone, the city’s B division police station told MediaNama. The two people, identified as Hiren and Ravi, live a few blocks away from each other. The mawas were delivered on the terrace of Neelkanth Society to Ravi, and Hiren lives just 100 metres away from Ravi’s society, according to the Times of India, which had first reported this. According to the report, Hiren, who is a tobacco trader, had prepared the mawas.

The police learnt about the incident after a TikTok video uploaded to Hiren’s profile went viral on social media. At the time of publication, the video had been taken down. Both individuals were released on April 12 morning on bail, but the police station told MediaNama that they would be presented in front of the district court as soon as the lockdown ends on May 3. 

The two were arrested not particularly for flying a drone, but for transporting tobacco during the lockdown period, the police said. “They were engaging in transportation of a non-essential commodity during the lockdown which is illegal,” the police station told us. They were booked under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).

According to current regulations around drone usage, all drones (except nano drones) are to have a Unique Identification Number, and drone operators of drones except nano and micro types are required to obtain an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP). Before every drone flight, a clearance is also needed. “We don’t know what [type of] drone it was,” the police told us. 

This development comes as police in several states — including Gujarat, which reportedly has deployed 200 surveillance drones, Kerala, Telangana, and Delhi — are using drones to keep an eye out on violators of the lockdown. In Kerala’s Kasargod district, the police have hired drones from individuals, and the footage recorded by those is stored on police’s mobile phones. In Telangana’s Cyberabad, the police have tied up with a private company to hire drones and drone operators.