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The Parrot is a popular make of recreational drone, globally available
 
Drone ahoy!

Remotely controlled micro drones   have become serious consumer  products with many interesting  applications which are perfectly legal in India....
By Anand Parthasarathy
The micro-drone is an idea whose time has come. We are not talking about  the  big military unmanned vehicle with a   bomb  in  the  nose that  some governments  have been deploying to take out their enemies on foreign soil. 
No, the biggest  personal  technology of idea in 2015,  will likely be  a small  rubber-and-plastic contraption, weighing less than 1 kg,  the size of a large pizza. It is  more accurately called a quadcopter  because it is lifted and propelled by  four rotors,  two of them spinning one way and two the other.   Vary the  speed of  the rotors and you  can control how the  drone pitches, yaws,  climbs, descends or zooms. The beauty of this new class of  drone is that  the personal controlling it is YOU , working with a smart phone or tablet. 
Like all compelling  personal technologies, the micro drone  won't go away just  because governments  worldwide are  worried about  what drones in public hands can do. 
We first heard of personal drones about a year ago when  they were tried out  worldwide, to deliver  pizzas.  In May last year, Francesco's Pizzeria, in  Mumbai's Lower Parel area,  did a test delivery  to  the 21st floor terrace of an apartment in Worli about 1 1/2 kms away.   The  police made threatening noises -- so the idea never  took off. 
As things stand, it is unlikely that in India,  authorities  will allow the use of drones in public spaces any time soon.   The Director General of Civil Aviation   took the easy option of banning  drones altogether, presumably, till  government  figures out what is the legislation elsewhere.  In countries where some form of regulation is in place,  recreational drones  are generally permitted  if the  height flown  is less than 400  feet ( 120 metres)  and the range is   within line of sight  or not more than half a kilometre. There are also restrictions if you strap a camera to the drone  ( the most common use today): you can't breach other people's privacy  or get closer than 30 metres to them.
In the absence of any regulation in India on use of drones in public space,  it is  better to deploy drones within  one's private property -- and even this offers  a lot of interesting options:
There is no difficulty in using drones indoors -- and at many weddings these days, it makes for more interesting video, if the camera is mounted on a drone   rather than on  a Jimmy Jib crane  which costs around Rs 7000/ hour   to hire.   A drone with a gyro-stabilised  fish eye lens and a full HD camera   can be had in India for around Rs 30,000.  Indeed,  at the last three mobile phone launches I have attended, the handset was  delivered to the VIP on the stage by a drone. These payload drones which can carry  about 500 grams,  cost  between Rs 10,000 - 15,000.
Within gated communities or  large apartment complexes,  there should be no problem in operating drones within the private space -- and the labour-saving possibilities are endless.  If a courier consignment  -- or a pizza  for that matter -- is handed over at the security gate of the complex,  it can very well be flown to the balcony of a 10th floor apartment   rather than  have a  delivery person  walk a  a few hundred metres  and take the elevator!
I heard informally that some resort hotels in Goa are also toying with the idea of using drones to deliver  a newspaper  or   housekeeping extras like   tea bags or   towel,   to guests in distant  sea-facing cottages. 
And what about the campuses of  the big IT companies? The Microsoft campus in Gachibowli, Hyderabad is so vast, it can take 10 minutes to reach some departments from the main gate. Some of their staff who had visited the US  had brought  toy drone kits for their kids to assemble  and I heard some loud  talk about how easy it would be distribute mail daily via drone,  to each department.
Even a country with strict air space controls like China,  has permitted  e-commerce giant Alibaba  to deliver  ginger tea  packets  to customers  in  some areas of Beijing and Shanghai, via drone.  Even three years ago, some academic campuses like the Free University of Berlin  realised that drones were an unstoppable idea and permitted them on campus for food delivery, albeit in a controlled way.  In the world's vast out doors,  some breathtaking views of nature otherwise unobtainable, are being captured -- using camera-drones. Film makers will soon  make  a drone yet another platform for their  movie cameras.
Will the personal drone  will be as  common as the  personal phone or computer? Maybe not; but the possibilities are truly exciting.  And  as it happens with phones, your children will learn to  use one  creatively, before you do!  The  cheapest drones cost just Rs 3000 or so at Indian online shops -- so start  flying!

For a survey of Made in India drones please our Image of the Day Section on the home page

 




    


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