Aerial maps enabling Social Distancing for COVID Hotspot Management

Saksham Bhutani

Saksham Bhutani , Marketing Head at Indshine

April 17, 2020


The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak 'A Pandemic' after its spread across six continents and more than 100 countries. The world shows that quarantine, social distancing, and isolation of infected populations can contain the epidemic.

Harvard researchers have released a report that Social Distancing might have to be implanted well as this may continue till 2022. People across the world have been taking innovative measures to follow the principles of Social Distancing. Drones backed by advanced analytics can play a vital role in the containment of the virus in India.

This article summarizes a live case study of Gautam Budh Nagar police enabling social distancing for COVID hotspots management through drone and satellite maps.

Maps overlayed with population data becomes an effective tool for police workforce planning.

By IPS Officer, Gautam Budh Nagar Police Department, Uttar Pradesh, India

Aerial maps enabling Social Distancing for COVID Hotspot Management

_[Aerial Maps]( _with marking of boundaries and barricades

Why Social Distancing is a challenge for countries like India?

Population density is one of a number of key factors that determine how vulnerable places are to the virus. And hence the depth of COVID_19 in India seems dangerous due to its high population density (well highlighted in the image below).

Aerial maps enabling Social Distancing for COVID Hotspot Management

Population of India in comparison to other countries across world

Hence, there is a dire need for planning and managing the COVID hotspots (area of originating cases). This article highlights how drones helped Gautam Budh Nagar police to identify the problematic areas and to take necessary steps to mitigate the further spread of the Corona Virus.

How Drones are enabling Social Distancing?

BetterDrones have taken the initiative to enable social distancing through aerial mapping. This is a pretty new use case of using drone and satellite maps in addition to ongoing surveillance.

Senior IPS officer, Gautam Budh Nagar police, took a step forward with the help of BetterDrones for aerial mapping. They are capturing raw photos from DJI Phantom 4 with overlapping of 80% frontal and sideways and processing them with Agisoft photogrammetry software to make true ortho maps. Authorities are using Indshine GIS workspace for planning all activities related to COVID hotspot management by overlaying these ortho maps with population data.

They are planning the essential movement for delivery partners, placement of barricades, social boundaries, management of society gates (whether they need to be closed or opened) and also which roads need to be blocked and many other operations that are impossible through physical supervision. The planning also involves:

  • Marking of social distancing queue markers to prevent the outbreak
  • Locating nearby Hospitals, market and police station for faster emergency response
  • Slums population assessment and management
  • Setting up isolation, screening and treatment centers.

Here is a live interactive orthomosaic map (although many hotspots have been mapped but due to data privacy concerns, the project contains dummy data) that highlights a few of the use-cases mentioned above. To scroll through more orthomosaic maps, refer to this project library.

Live Interactive Orthomosaic map

Besides this, the ortho-rectified high-resolution aerial imagery can be used by the first responders, healthcare departments and GIS professionals to assess the spread of the virus, visualize the scope of affected areas, plan coordination efforts, and improve responses. The imagery is also needed to create maps, spatial data products and geo-information for those responding to national emergencies with applications such as asset management, public safety, utility mapping, and insurance claims.

Authorities are also using drones for consistent surveillance activities to figure out the movements of the public around these hotspots. Police personnel is taking necessary actions to monitor the public for crowd control, marking boundaries around hotspots and can also guide the citizens to access nearby markets. doorstep delivery of essentials to make sure residents stay indoors.

In situations like these drones play a considerable role in the management and control of any area with a minimum workforce. All the drone recordings with timestamps are linked with the Indshine platform acting as the single-source dashboard. The presence of all officials on the same platform helped in faster coordination from the higher police officials and state authorities.

Aerial maps enabling Social Distancing for COVID Hotspot Management

Drone surveillance videos integrated with planning tool

Here are some Question and Answers conversation with the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, police personnel, from Gautam Budh Nagar :

  • What is your feedback on the whole exercise?

    BetterDrones team came up to volunteer the previous week. Since I have worked with aerial maps before in the Kumbh area, where I used them for planning, hence I was aware of the applications. On top of this, these guys were energetic to figure out more innovative solutions for us.

  • How are you using drones and aerial maps?

    Our police department is using aerial maps including drone and satellite maps overlayed with population data to plan out all sort of things in Hotspots. Some cases affected with coronavirus have been located in slum areas and because of high population density, these are critical areas for us to control. The high-resolution maps of these areas give us a clear picture for planning groceries movements, quarantine centres and workforce allocation. We are able to plan out barricading for all hotspots well. We are using maps for allocating passes to Swiggy/Zomato based online food delivery companies. We have recently asked BetterDrones team to mark nearby hospitals and police stations from hotspots and the shortest running routes for easy movements in case of an emergency. BetterDrones team are also supporting us with live surveillance which they have integrated with the existing Indshine platform. The live videos of surveillance help us to ensure lockdown and social distancing measures.

  • Where did you specifically find it useful?

    In Uttar Pradesh, it has been made compulsory for police officials on-site to have their coronavirus test done in every 3 days and plan 2 weeks quarantine after every 2 weeks. Since the workforce is limited, it's crucial to plan things for workforce allocation. The aerial maps overlayed with population data gives a clear picture of how much workforce is required in that specific area. Also, in this war against coronavirus, all police personnel including Senior Superintendent of Police (S.S.P), Superintendent of Police (S.P), Assistant Superintendent of Police (A.S.P), Deputy Superintendent of Police (D.S.P) and other staff have been working day and night, so it becomes important to have a planning tool which is common to all of them to avoid any communication gaps.

  • What would you have done if this method was not adopted?

    We were carrying out all sort of planning on printed maps, but this online tool by an Indian company Indshine gives us the flexibility to work from anywhere. In this times, everyone is contributing to the war against corona and hence BetterDrones team have agreed to carry out the task in bare minimum commercials.

Aerial maps enabling Social Distancing for COVID Hotspot Management

Drone Teams in Gautam Budh Nagar Police Station

India is setting a great example of "How Drones can enable Social Distancing" with many organizations including India Flying Labs spreading awareness on the use-cases of drones. For more detailed know-how the following links can be referred :

While drones have become common place in industries such as construction, film production, and public safety, these stories are a signal that drones are likely to become a common tool across the healthcare industry as well.

The spread of COVID-19 has been an unfortunate way to begin a new decade, but it is commendable to see how various parties have quickly come up with unique and innovative solutions to combat the virus for the greater good.

Contributors : Deepali Joshi, Kanav Kumar, Abhishek Maurya

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