SCATTERED CLOUDS, a packed stadium and music levels that were slowly rising. The stage was set for fusion band Magik’s India tour of 2025. People had showed up in droves to watch one of the most famous bands of all time perform live in the capital. The music—a mixture of the crowd shouting and the band playing—was echoing in the entire stadium. And here I was, relaxing on the sofa and enjoying the live feed on my tablet. The tickets had been sold out in the blink of an eye, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t relish the performance live, sort of.
Four drones, retro-fitted with high-definition cameras and wireless receivers, were beaming the action live from all angles in a multiple drone set-up. The aerial view was adding to the rich experience. While one drone was following the band’s movement, the others kept a constant eye on the crowd’s reaction.
The drone factor prompted me to share the live feed with members of an online community of fusion music lovers. “Drones bring you Magik playing live in Delhi. Check this out! #Magik #drones”, my post read. Within minutes, the feed was trending on the group, as many members commented on it and shared it further.
I decided to share the feed with my cousin, a huge Magik fan. I sent him the link using an instant messaging app. It took time to deliver, and then it hit me that he was travelling to a remote location for a photography assignment. But suddenly, the message was delivered and my cousin was online. “Weren’t you travelling for work? How are you getting reception out there?” I asked. He explained how a network operator had deployed drones in the area that were essentially functioning like makeshift mobile signal hotspots. Running on batteries, they could stay in one position for weeks. My cousin was able to enjoy the entire concert even though he was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by thick green foliage and rocks. How convenient!
The next day, I had to travel halfway across the city to attend a friend’s wedding. Having stayed up late for the concert, I was in no mood to go shopping for a gift. Thankfully, my online shopaholic wife ordered one, and a delivery drone was at our balcony in less than an hour with a neatly wrapped gift. What a change from the days when e-commerce companies prided themselves on single-day delivery.
Come evening and I prepare for the drive across the city. Delhi roads on a weekend during the wedding season can be a real test of your driving skills. To avoid hitting a traffic snag, I decided to take the tried-and-tested route to the venue. Helping me on my way were real-time traffic updates from the official app of the city police, who were getting data on the traffic situation from their monitoring drones. Fitted with a blinking red beacon and camera, which sends back aerial images of the movement of vehicles to the police department, these autonomous drones were positioned above some of the busiest roads in the capital. One could see why traffic management had become more efficient now.
But the one thing that irritated me was how billboards along the roads constantly changed their ads, with drones acting as projectors. How distracting, though my five-year-old daughter certainly didn’t think so.
Once at the wedding, I was relieved not to find any cameramen near the food stalls. They tend to film you while you are eating—you have to smile for the camera even if the food isn’t tasty! The camerapersons at the wedding were busy clicking the newly-married couple. Naturally, with no eyes on them, guests were busy tasting the various delicacies. As I munched on some golgappas, I saw a familiar figure on the big screen. He looked exactly like me—it was me!
I looked around, but was unable to find any nosy cameraman. I looked above and there it was—a white hexacopter hovering over the pandal. Operated by two people on the ground, the drone was meant to capture some candid (eating) moments. Some guests, like me, even made it to the big screen. I finished my golgappas and wished my friend a wonderful life ahead, making a last-minute check on the traffic update app before heading home.
Farming drones: A lot of drones are being used for agricultural uses. The use of drones for such purposes is termed ‘precision agriculture’. Using aerial imagery, drones provide data and pictures on the health of the farm to farmers. “Drones are like three-dimensional sensors or computers in the air. They are getting smarter and will eventually replace the conventional methods of doing work,” says Mughilan TR, co-founder and chief designer, Skylark Drones, a Bengaluru-based company.
Cinema drones: These machines are also making their presence felt in the movie industry. Recently, a drone was used to shoot a scene in a Kannada movie. The drone captured a helicopter by flying above it.
Wildlife drones: Experts believe that one of the biggest uses of drones in India is in the wildlife sector. The Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun will use the technology to curb growing instances of man-animal encounters. Land surveillance using drones could be a key factor here.
Medic drones: Recently, a health clinic in Virginia, US, received medicines from a drone. These machines are capable of carrying medical aid in their payload. Through embedded cameras in the drones, doctors can even advise patients on administering medication. Experts say drones could be the key to saving many lives during natural disasters since they can access areas where rescue forces cannot be mobilised.
Delivery drones: Everyone remembers the Mumbai-based Francesco’s Pizzeria using a drone to deliver a pizza to a customer. This could soon be the norm among e-tailers. Amazon (Prime Air) and
DHL (parcelopter) have already experimented with their respective drones. Many more are waiting in the wings for some clarity on government regulations.
News coverage drones: Soon, drones won’t be in the news, they could be covering it as well. News channels could use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to cover major events and happenings. Several channels in the UK and US have already used them to cover sporting events, etc.
Archaeology drones: Exploring excavation sites, caves and other archaeological areas could become easier through drones. If drones are fitted with thermal and 3D imaging sensors, archaeologists could not only see beneath the surface, but explore structures without entering them.
Internet drones: Remote area
s across the globe could access the Net through drones that would beam Internet services to them. Recently, Facebook developed a solar-powered unmanned aircraft, Aquila, that would hover at a height range of 60,000-90,000 feet and beam the Internet to rural areas.