By Nivedita Khandekar
New Delhi, Jan 16 India Meteorological Department (IMD) is looking at conducting a pilot project in 2023 for using drones for weather observations across India.
Ever since the Ministry of Civil Aviation notified the liberalised Drone Rules, 2021, in August last year, there have been talks of the immense potential that using drones will have for multiple applications.
Although this included talks about observational forecasting by the IMD, it was the Minister for State for Earth Sciences, Jitendra Singh, while speaking at the 147th Foundation Day event of the IMD on Friday, brought the issue to the forefront.
He had said that his Ministry will deploy and use drone-based observation technology in a big way for strengthening the localised forecasting, besides adopting the high-resolution models.
IMD Director General, Mrutyunjay Mahapatra told IANS: “It is still at a very initial state. We are looking at a pilot study in about a year.”
The IMD releases 63 balloons everyday uniformly distributed across India. Those reach up to an altitude of four to five km but the equipment that goes with it is lost.
“Instead, with drones that can go up to six km vertically, our equipment can be
reused,” Mohapatra said.
Experts welcomed it as a positive development but were also wary of its limitations in terms of endurance and payload but most of them were welcoming of the development as something for which the time is right.
Former IMD Director General, K.J. Ramesh pointed out how the US and Israel are already extensively using drones and said that for India, drones can be useful in remote areas such as Ladakh or coastal areas.
“Drones of three to four hours of endurance (having) horizontal radial scan range of 40-50 km and vertical range of 4-5 km capability that the Defence Research and Development Organisation developed and are being operated by Indian Navy in naval yards or by the Army in hilly regions will have to be used with meteorological instruments payload,” Ramesh said.
Terming it as a new vista for technology around the unmanned aerial vehicle to play a significant role in weather data management, Nilamadhab Prusty, Mentor Director, Strategy Centre at the Centre for Development and Disaster Management Support Services, said, “Instrumented drone can perform this role. It can help forecast the air pollution menace.”