The Indian government is turning to drones to monitor and deter illegal mining activities.
‘Near-misses’ with commercial aircraft, trivial but impressive light shows and fears over privacy: drones certainly make for good headlines, but it’s easy to forget the positive impact that drone technology can have.
This is particularly true in sectors traditionally underfunded and lacking in resources, such as environmental protection and law enforcement. Now, faced with an increase in illegal mining, the Indian government is looking to the skies for a solution.
Indian officials have outlined plans to deploy drones to combat the growing number of renegade miners, who not only steal valuable resources without permits, but do so without paying tax and in ways that are completely unregulated and damaging to the environment. Dealing with crimes of this nature is never easy, especially when offences take place in remote areas, often aided by corrupt officials.
Drones offer a different way to police illegal mining
Speaking to Bloomberg, Piyush Sharma, technical secretary at the Indian Bureau of Mines in Nagpur, said, “What happens in most of the cases is that when we reach those areas, people get a whiff of it and they run away, they remove their workers, they remove everything.”
Drones offer a different method of policing, gathering data from above that can be used as evidence long after illegal miners have dispersed. It’s hoped that a more proactive approach to India’s illegal mining problem will help restore confidence in the government’s ability to protect rights to known deposits.
Drones, environmental monitoring and insight from above
Speaking exclusively to Internet of Business, commercial and operations director at UAV operator Ocuair, Steve Carrington, expanded on the technology that allows drones to gather progressive environmental data from the skies.
Aside from offering a cheaper, more practical way to keep tabs on mining operations, drones and the ever increasing range of software packages that accompany them can provide unique insights.
The majority of the work will actually be done by clever mapping software and automated flight programs. The drones “will gather real-time data – creating maps that record what is happening ’now'”, Carrington said. “This data-gathering activity is regularly repeatable and allows each map to be overlaid on previous versions to monitor and understand change. This technology can be applied to clearly spot where mining has been taking place, even if wrong-doers are long gone, and can be applied with amazing levels of accuracy – down to millimetres if required.”
The data gathered by drones can also be used for modelling purposes, giving officials a broad view of how a mining operation is impacting the immediate environment. Drones can offer insight into “how material is moved and redeposited as spoil and waste, understanding the impact on watercourses and other physical features, maintaining safety and health not just on site, but understanding the impact ‘downstream’,” said Carrington
“This is becoming even easier as sensor power, battery power and photogrammetry software accuracy improves,” he added.
As with any project involving drones, “it’s about getting the right sensors to the right place, gathering the best data, and then processing it to provide meaningful information upon which informed decisions can be made.”
While drones are clearly not the whole answer to India’s problem with illegal miners, “they can be a big part of the solution.”