Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Police has started using drones to map Srinagar, a routine activity done manually by personnel in the past.
Speaking to ThePrint, local police officers said using drones will also help the civil administration conduct surveillance in the Valley, besides cutting down the manual effort put into the mapping exercise.
“Over 100 drones were provided to the police force last year in October and November, which are now being used to conduct mapping exercises,” said a senior police official. “The exercise has started in Srinagar and, so far, the activity has been performed without any hassles.”
Mapping exercises are conducted to create elaborate profiles of localities, which include details such as number of houses, shops, roads, religious places and other establishments located there.
“It is for the first time that drones are being used to conduct the elaborate exercise,” the official quoted above said, adding it was being overseen by multiple teams headed by a deputy superintendent of police.
“In some cases, the DSPs themselves are operating the drones, while in other cases, their juniors are operating the machines after receiving proper training,” the officer added.
The exercise was earlier carried out by the beat in-charge, who is either a sub-inspector or head constable-rank official.
Senior officers said mapping was a routine affair conducted multiple times in a year to update the police database. The ongoing bid to map Srinagar is expected to get over in a few weeks, they added.
“By the end of the exercise, we will have elaborate aerial-view maps of localities that will provide us the exact location and number of houses, shops, mosques, roads, intersections and so on,” said a second senior police officer ThePrint spoke to.
“This will help us maintain law and order in the future, especially when there are instances of violent protests. Our forces or the central forces will be able to navigate better,” the official added.
‘For aerial surveillance’
Another senior police officer said the drones will also be employed for 24×7 aerial surveillance, adding all police stations and related facilities in Kashmir will be provided with unmanned aerial vehicles.
“After the 5 August decision (scrapping of Article 370), it was observed that drones acted as a major deterrent for protests to take place,” the official added.
“It has helped us massively in crowd-control,” the official said.
Some residents, however, are wary about the drones, especially in downtown Srinagar, which police see as the hardest to navigate during protests.
“I was woken up one morning by a helicopter-like sound. My room is located on the first floor of our house. I opened the window… When I looked outside, I saw this drone staring right back at me,” said Umair Ahmed, a 31-year-old resident of downtown Srinagar.
“The drone didn’t change its position for another few seconds and then flew away.”