Tirupati: Following the successful trial run of drone camera in the Seshachalam forest area near Tirupati last week, the Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force (RSASTF) is going to be equipped with a couple of drone cameras very shortly to more efficiently tackle the red sanders smuggling menace.
It has become a major problem for the Andhra Pradesh government and the smuggling activities of have extended to international level. The recent trial run of drone at Mekalabanda near Srivari mettu near Tirupati and Kumaradhara Pasupudhara dam atop Tirumala hills proved that it will help the Task Force personnel for effectively curbing the red sanders illegal activities in the Seshachalam forests.
The Seshachalam Hill ranges of the East are spread over two districts viz., Chittoor and Kadapa and the total geographical area of Seshachalam forest is 4,755km. As the forest department forces failed to curb the lucrative illegal trade of the red sanders tree and unable to control the intrusion of smugglers into the forest area, the government formed RSASTF exclusively to curb the menace.
Recently a separate police station was also in place at Kapilatheertham by RSASTF to exclusively deal with the red sanders cases.
The RSASTF was established with forces from the police and forest departments. Presently a total of 183 personnel are working under the Task Force. After field-level activities like intensive combing, digging trenches along the forest periphery, setting up base camps in the deep forest and check posts along highways didn’t yield the desired results to locate the movements of the smugglers in the deep forest, the task force has opted out to adopt modern scientific tools like drones cameras.
The move comes after Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu's directions to curb the menace and protect the red sanders-rich Seshachalam forest with the help of latest technology. Recently RSASTF Deputy Inspector-General M. Kantha Rao got the drones tested at two locations, Mekalabanda near Srivari mettu near Tirupati and witnessed the demonstration of the drone camera for aerial surveillance of the forests.
Later he expressed satisfaction of the performance of the drone cameras. “The drone cameras are very useful for the surveillance of the movements of the red sanders smugglers who venture into dense forest areas to cut the trees. The smugglers are intruding into the Seshachalam forest area despite the heavy security from the forest and task force teams. There are several instances where they fled into the deep forest after noticing our teams. It is a hard task to comb the vast forest area by not knowing about their hideouts inside the forest. If we can identify their location we can easily attack them for which the aerial surveillance will be helpful,”said RSASTF DSP S.V. Sridhar Rao.
He added that they are proposing to establish 10 base camps exclusively to deal with drone cameras surveillance where the presence of precious trees has been marked. “The images transmitted from drone cameras will be received by a couple of base stations established in the middle of the new base camps. When we notice the movements of the smugglers within a short time we can strike them,” he said.
According to sources the drone camera will cost around Rs 1 crore depending upon its tracking capacity. The drone can fly upto three km atop and can capture images in a radius of 5km with 360 degrees rotating camera. The sources said around half a dozen drones will be deployed in the two districts to scan every inch of the Seshachalam forest areas for locating human movement. The images with accurate locations will be transmitted to the base camps, which will be set very shortly to help to curb the illegal red sanders trees felling and smuggling.