Shot in the arm for Forest Department

Drones have come to the rescue of the Forest Department, which has used them for the mapping of protected areas, conservation of inaccessible areas, and in planning and management of sanctuaries and monitoring encroachments.

"On the field, I always prefer to have a drone with me. Our experience is that the data captured by the drone is far clearer compared to satellite images for planning and documentation of the protected areas. We have used the drones for bird census in Kolleru Lake for accuracy of the data," Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife-Rajahmundry) Ananat Shankar told The Hindu.

An Indian Forest Service officer, Mr. Shankar said drones are being used by his staff on a daily basis.

"Planning afforestation activities and identifying important areas for nurseries, plantation, creation of a treasure trove of the photographs and videos on the beauty of the protection areas are a few activities being done with the drones by our forest staff on a daily basis in Godavari and Krishna deltas in coastal Andhra Pradesh," Mr. Shankar said.

In 2017, Asia’s biggest freshwater lake of Kolleru was mapped for the first time with drones while Coringa and Krishna wildlife sanctuaries were mapped in 2018, creating a repository of images that would help plan a range of initiatives for monitoring and planning the conservation and addressing encroachments.

"We are operating drones on the creeks and dense mangrove covers that are completely inaccessible for humans. In some challenging sites, such as Kumbabhisekham fish landing point on Kakinada coast, we are depending on the drones for monitoring the fish catch for protection of endangered species," he said.

Drone squadron

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Andhra Pradesh) N. Prateep Kumar told The Hindu that there are plans to set up an exclusive drone squadron. "We have a proposal to constitute an exclusive drone squadron. Now, drone technology is being used in Andhra Pradesh for selective needs. The adoption of technology is yet to be fully analysed," Mr. Prateep Kumar said.

In India, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu have exclusive drone squadrons for their forest departments.

Requesting anonymity, a top forest official said that monitoring of red sanders areas via drones was helpful in preparing strategies to tackle smuggling and determine the requirement of personnel.

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