Drone surveillance technology has emerged as an important and cost-effective tool in terms of security surveillance in wide areas with limited manpower. Mumbai Division of Central Railway in Indian Railways has recently purchased two Ninja UAVs for better safety and surveillance in railway areas like railway premises, railway track section, yard, workshop etc.
A team of four employees of the Railway Protection Force (RPF), Mumbai, have been trained for flying, monitoring and maintaining drones. These drones are capable of real time tracking, video streaming and can be operated on automatic fail safe mode.
The Railway Protection Force (RPF) has planned extensive use of drones for the purpose of railway safety. So far, nine (09) drones have been purchased by RPF for South Eastern Railway, Central Railway, Modern Coaching Factory, Rae Bareli and South Western Railway at a cost of Rs 31.87 lakh.
Seventeen (17) more drones are proposed to be procured at a cost of Rs 97.52 lakhs in future. Nineteen (19) RPF personnel have so far been trained in the operation and maintenance of drones, of which 4 have obtained licenses to fly drones. Six (06) more RPF personnel are being trained.
The purpose of the deployment of drones is to increase the effectiveness of the deployed security personnel and provide them assistance. It can help in overseeing the safety of railway property and yard, workshops, car sheds etc. It can also be used to monitor criminal and antisocial activities in the railway premises such as gambling, throwing garbage and hawkers, etc. They can also be deployed for data collection and analysis of collected data can also prove to be extremely useful for safe operation of trains.
Drones can be used for services such as relief and rescue operations, recovery and reconstruction to coordinate efforts of various agencies at disaster sites. They are also very useful when mapping railway property to assess encroachment on railway property.
During a large-scale crowd management effort, it can provide important information such as the likely time and number of people to gather, on the basis of which crowd control efforts can be planned and executed. During the COVID-19 lockdown, drones were used to intercept and monitor the movement of migrants.
A drone camera can cover such a large area that requires 8–10 RPF personnel. Thus, it can lead to substantial improvements in the use of limited manpower. Drone surveillance has been designed on the basis of railway assets, area sensitivity, activity of criminals etc. This informs the nearest RPF post for direct arrest of the offender through monitoring of the entire area. One such criminal was caught on a real-time basis in the Wadibandar yard area while he was trying to steal inside a railway coach parked in the yard.