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Govt allows drones to tackle locust swarms

Govt allows drones to tackle locust swarms
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New Delhi: The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has given its nod for flying engine-operated drones at night to destroy locust swarms. The ministry has allowed to fly the drones, each weighing about 50 kg, to spray chemicals on the locusts swarming in Rajasthan and other states. The agriculture ministry had sought approval from the ministry to use drones to spray insecticities in nights in locust affected areas.

Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Tuesday flagged off a helicopter to spray insecticides to kill locusts in Rajashtan. He flagged off a Bell Helicopter with spray equipment from a helipad facility at Gautam Buddh Nagar. The helicopter will fly for Air Force Station at Barmer where it will be stationed initially and from there deployed for locust control in desert areas of Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur and Nagaur. The helicopter will have single pilot operation, has a pesticide carrying capacity of 250 litres in one trip and can cover about 25 to 50 hectare area in one flight. An Empowered Committee had earlier finalized the firm for deploying one helicopter for aerial spray in desert area after getting all the clearances from DGCA and MoCA.

Union agriculture Minister, while flagging off the helicopter, said that after a long gap of 26 years, last year locust attack took place. It was estimated that this year there would be greater locust problem, but the state governments have been alerted and are working in close coordination with the Centre. Deployment of machines, vehicles and manpower has been increased and concerned states are utilizing SDRF funds to tackle the problem. Drones have been used for the first time for locust control and today aerial spraying of insecticides with the use of helicopter has also been launched.

The minister expressed gratitude to Ministry of Civil Aviation for enabling the deployment of drones and helicopter. He informed that order has been placed for five numbers of aerial spraying machines from a UK-based company, and once these are received, they will be deployed in IAF helicopters and pressed into operation for locust control.

The deployment of the helicopter for locust control operations follows the need to strengthen air control capabilities for locust control through drones, helicopters and aircrafts.

Cabinet Secretary reviewed the locust situation on May 27 and directed the Ministry of Civil Aviation to assist the Department of Agriculture Cooperation & Farmers' Welfare in facilitating the procurement of goods and services for aerial spray of pesticides through drones, aircraft/helicopter. Thereafter an inter-ministerial Empowered Committee under the chairmanship of the Additional Secretary, Agriculture was constituted for facilitating the procurement of goods and services for aerial spray of pesticides through drones, aircraft and helicopter. Officers of the MoCA, Pawan Hans, DGCA, Air India and DAC&FW are members of the committee.

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