The Indian Railways has procured nine surveillance drones for over Rs 31 lakh in a bid to strengthen Railways’ security, the Railways Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. It is also planning to procure another seventeen drones “in future” for Rs. 97.52 lakh.

To handle the influx of these surveillance drones, nineteen personnel from the Railway Protection Force (RPF) have been trained to carry out operations and maintenance, out of which four have received licenses for flying drones. Six more RPF personnel are being trained, the Ministry said. The RPF has created drone beats based on railway asset, sensitivity of area, and activity of criminals. It also claimed that a “criminal” has already been arrested following receiving live inputs from a drone.

“The purpose of the drone deployment is to provide a force multiplier and aid to the effectiveness of the security personnel deployed. It can help in inspection of Railway assets and safety of Yards, Workshops, car sheds etc. it can be used to launch surveillance on criminal and anti-social activities like gambling, throwing of garbage, hawking etc in Railway premises. It may be deployed for data collection Analysis of such data collected may prove to be extremely useful in vulnerable sections for safe operations of trains,” the Ministry said in a statement.

“The drone may be pressed in service at disaster sites for helping in rescue, recovery and restoration and coordinating of efforts of various agencies. It is very useful while undertaking mapping of railway asset to assess the encroachments on railway property. During large scale crowd management efforts, it may give vital inputs like crowd magnitude, probable time of arrival and dispersal based on which crowd regulation efforts may be planned and executed,” it added.

Of the nine drones, the Mumbai Division of the Railways has procured two drones from Indian drone maker ideaForge for security and surveillance in areas like station premises, track sections, yards, and workshops, among other areas. The drone maker told MediaNama that another four of its drones have been acquired by the South Eastern Railways.

“We are extremely pleased to see [that] our drones are helping the nation. Persistent use as demonstrated by the Central Railway users is the best way to use the Drone Technology for security applications. Only when a Drone flies continuously can it catch such activities like theft, pilferage, encroachment, illegal crossings,  sabotage and trespassing,” Ankit Mehta co-founder and CEO of ideaForge said in a statement to MediaNama.

To be sure, Railways has been flirting with the idea of using drones since 2018, when it had said that it will deploy drone-mounted cameras to monitor activities like rescue operations, track inspection, traffic regulation and infrastructure projects