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Drones are also equipped with camera, focus light, beacon

The Mumbai Police, for the first time, used a speaker mounted on a drone to issue advisories to protesters outside the Enforcement Directorate (ED) office on Friday.

Around 400 supporters of Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar gathered outside the ED office at Ballard Estate to protest the naming of Mr. Pawar as an accused in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam. As they raised slogans against the government, the drone speaker periodically issued cautionary instructions to them.

“Prohibitory orders have been imposed in this area. We appeal to everyone to refrain from taking the law into their hands,” the recorded audio said.

Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Pranay Ashok said three drones were procured ahead of the Ganeshotsav. The drones, apart from a camera, are equipped with a speaker and a focus light.

“The camera, speaker and focus light are detachable and can be used as per requirement. We were contemplating using the speaker during the Ganeshotsav but the crowds themselves were quite noisy. On Thursday, we found that the situation was ideal, and hence made use of the speaker along with the camera,” Mr. Ashok said.

The focus light can be used at night to illuminate specific areas during police operations. The drones are also equipped with a beacon that blinks in the dark, making it easy for the operator to spot it from a long distance, Mr. Ashok said. “Apart from recorded messages, instruction can be issued live through the drone’s controlling device.”

A police officer said the idea of using a speaker was not just to ensure that the instructions reach the target group in time, but also to have a record of the measures taken by the police.

“The controlling device of the drone keeps a record of all actions taken by it, including the timings at which the audio file is played. Simultaneously, as the camera and the speaker are mounted close to each other, the camera captures the sound and the time stamp of the video feed. Put together, this will make for a strong evidence in case a situation arises and we are required to justify the action we take in response,” the officer said.

The area outside the ED office had been turned into a fortress since Thursday night, with barricades being set up and vehicular traffic being stopped in the lane leading to the spot. Around 1,000 personnel were deployed to ensure that no law and order situation occurred. The extra security was lifted late on Friday.

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