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Preparing for takeoff: How the government sector can leverage drone technology

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly referred to as ‘drones’, are basically aircraft without human pilots that have been in operation since the early 1900s. With the digital revolution bringing in tiny microprocessors and abilities for long-distance communication, the role of drones expanded to not only more specialised military operations but also civilian applications.

Types of drones

Operationally, a drone can either be:

  1. remote controlled by a pilot sitting out of a remote location or
  2. preprogrammed to operate automatically without any human intervention.

There are primarily two types of drones:

  • fixed-wing drones and
  • rotary drones

Rotary drones can either be single-rotor drones or multirotor drones.

Drones are often loaded with various sensors, such as in-built GPS navigation systems, TV cameras, image intensifiers, radars, infrared imaging equipment and lasers to help round-the-clock monitoring and targeting. Military-use drones are also equipped with laser-guided missiles.

Leveraging drone technology - Application of drones in India

A few applications of drones in India are as follows:

Urban development

  • The Andhra Pradesh Government is using drones to monitor the development activities of the capital city region, i.e. Amaravati, through dron-ebased outputs.
  • As a pilot project, the Karnataka Government is using drones for property tax estimation and creation of base map of a city/town for detailed planning and sustainable governance.
  • The Chandigarh Administration has deployed drones as part of pilot project to get an aerial view of all properties in Chandigarh.

Read PwC's report on how drones can be used extensively in the Indian construction sector.

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  • Indian Railways has used drones for monitoring the 25-km long Seawoods-Belapur-Uran15 corridor.
  • The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has deployed drones in the Salem-Chennai green corridor expressway project to ensure accuracy with respect to the extent of land required for the project.
  • As a pilot project, the Government of Maharashtra has deployed two drones to monitor weekend rush hour traffic and accidents on the 95-km stretch between the Lonavala Exit and Khalapur Toll Plaza and on the six-lane Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

Read PwC's report on how drones can be used extensively in the Indian construction sector.

View more


  • A general insurance company deployed drones in a particular district in Maharashtra for assessment of crop damage due to floods in 2016.
  • The Maharashtra Government has used drones over fields in the Marathwada region for carrying out crop loss assessment due to deficit rainfall.
  • The individual farmers of Andhra Pradesh’s capital region are deploying drones to spray crop pesticide/ fertiliser in limited crop areas.

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Disaster Management

  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) deployed four drones to scan areas where search and rescue teams could not access in flood-hit Uttarakhand.
  • The National Disaster Relief Force used drones in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, to trace 24 engineering students from Hyderabad who were swept away by the Beas river.
  • During the Nepal earthquake, several agencies deployed drones for search and rescue operations and to map toppled monuments, ruined heritage sites and devastated homes.

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  • The Andhra Pradesh Government used a drone for monitoring of stockpile storage, 3D mapping and volumetric analysis of limestone over a period of time.
  • The Karnataka Police Department has procured and deployed 12 drones equipped with 18.2 MP cameras and night vision capability which fly at an altitude of 1 km for about 30 minutes to detect illegal sand mining from 5 km away.
  • In Jharkhand, drones are deployed for boundary and safety zone inspection of coal and iron mines, counting of vegetation in reclaimed areas, and profiling of quarry and dump for volume calculations

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  • Crop health monitoring
  • Soil health assessment
  • Improved resource utilisation
Urban development

Urban development

  • City survey
  • Improved urban planning
  • Project monitoring
  • Project quality assessment
Traffic management

Traffic management

  • Road surface condition monitoring
  • Improved traffic management
  • Traffic feedback
Homeland security

Homeland security

  • Real-time surveillance
  • Security planning
Oil and gas

Oil and gas

  • Emergency response
  • Asset safety monitoring
  • Security


  • Routine inspection
  • Structural preservation
  • Infrastructure planning

Implementing drone technology

Implementation of drone technology requires an inclusive and collaborative approach that involves aspects like governance, strategic planning, security, regulation and proper awareness. Successful implementation of drone technology requires participation from various stakeholders.

Read more about the six segments across which drone-based solutions are being explored in India.

Key considerations for adoption of drones

  1. Identification of the appropriate use case for the vantage
  2. Assessment of commercial aspects
  3. Types of output that can be expected
  4. Assessment of technology aspects
  5. Assessment of deployment aspects
  6. Assessment of procurement aspects
  7. Compliance with Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) regulations


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Sreeram Ananthasayanam

Sreeram Ananthasayanam

Partner, Advisory, Consulting, Government and Public Sector, PwC India

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