Help from the sky: Drones at rural India’s service

When it comes to alleviating some of rural communities’ pressing problems, perhaps we should look to the skies. Drones—the unmanned aerial vehicles—may remind us of high-tech military surveillance or counter-terrorism strikes; however, the technology holds the promise to do a lot of good, especially with respect to agriculture and healthcare. Here are just a few of the ways people and tech firms have used (or are planning to) drones for social good.

Skye Air Mobility, a drone delivery tech firm, has initiated a three-day-long beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) trial in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh to connect six primary health centres/community health centres PHC/CHC) and the area hospitals via multiple flights between points covering an aerial distance of 170 km. The drone delivery tech firm, which has inked a long-term partnership with the state government, is using its most reliable UAV, Skye Ship One, to facilitate real-time deliveries of vaccines and medicines within a specified temperature range of two- to eight-degree Celsius. There will be several reverse logistic flights also to help the adoption of drone technology for cost-effective deliveries within the state.

The drones, with consignments of medical supplies, flew at an altitude of 400 feet in a designated Green Zone of Chamba district. The flights took place in three air corridors—Chaned, Tissa and Mehla—demonstrating Skye Ship One’s ability to handle different temperature zones, steep mountain ranges and air-pockets.

Elated with the new partnership with the Himachal Pradesh government, Swapnik Jakkampundi, co-founder, Skye Air, said, “We look forward to bring better healthcare accessibility within the remotest parts of the state. As a beginning, we shall be conducting around 25 flights during the trial phase taking up hard weather and terrain challenges. In the coming months, as we look forward to enable commercial flights in the district, we shall be able to directly benefit over 5.19 lakh people by better healthcare accessibility and creating local employment in the drone delivery ecosystem.”

Skye Air Mobility focuses primarily on healthcare, e-commerce, hyperlocal and agri-commodity logistics. The company has completed over 940 deliveries with its flagship Skye Ship One in Telangana, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh. It has worked with leading hyperlocal delivery, logistics and e-commerce firms such as Dunzo Digital, BlueDart Express, Flipkart Internet, Redcliffe Diagnostics and others.

Skye Air recently made news for India’s first agri-commodity delivery via drones in Meghalaya enabling first-mile logistics for turmeric farmers.

In another instance of using drones for social impact, International Institute of Information Technology, Naya Raipur (IIIT-NR), faculty is working on a project for crop health monitoring and forecasting by means of a mobile app. The project is sponsored by SEED Division of SYST under department of science and technology, government of India). Under this project, the drone will click pictures of the field and immediately send them to the main computing zone where the insects will be identified from the photographs and the farmers will get all information regarding the insect, its causes and remedies on the app. “It will help them save the crops,” says Shrivishal Tripathi, IIIT-NR faculty member and the principal investigator. Anurag Singh and Muneendra Ojha are the co-investigators in the project.

Giving the project details, Tripathi said, “The research team has developed an app that can easily be downloaded on any Android phone and through which a specially configured drone will be operated. The drone will take pictures of the damaged crops, which will be sent to the database, and the people and system working behind the app will get to the problem and provide all details to the farmer on their registered account through their phone.”

According to him, an IoT unit has been installed, enabled with sensors that read the humidity, temperature, and pressure of the atmosphere which help in providing proper remedies to the farmers and also help to understand the crop’s health status in the future. “The app is intended to help farmers and is going to create a very positive impact on the economy as well as increase the income of farmers. India’s economy is largely based on agricultural products; this innovation can help farmers residing in the remote areas to get information on time without the help of any agricultural expert which is difficult to get in rural India.”

The IIIT NR researchers believe their unique project will help in bridging the gap between technology and agriculture, and help the farmers residing in remote areas. The root cause of crop damage can be identified and the problem can be resolved in a time-bound manner before it escalates. The app will connect the farmers to e-mandis, help them get the best rates and facilities.

The IIIT NR team has completed 70%- 80% of the work and field testing will soon start. It is open to feedback from farmers and plans to tweak the solution accordingly.

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Originally appeared on: TheSpuzz