In an incident that triggered mild panic at the Sri Venkateswara temple atop Tirumala in Andhra, a drone being used by the Forest Department crashed into a tree near the SNC area on Saturday afternoon.
According to reports, the drone was being used to survey vacant lands, while it was hit by a bird. Several devotees nearby heard a loud noise and ran away, as the drone's motor kept running as the machine fell, before crash landing on a tree.
There are restrictions for flying objects in Tirumala, as loud noises overhead may trigger panic among devotees below and cause a stampede.
However, in this case, the officials had taken permission from the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the governing body of the temple.
Speaking to media persons, Forest range officer SN Siva Kumar said, "To develop a garden in the Tirumala township area, we were conducting a drone survey with all necessary permissions. We were following all due protocol. We started two days before Brahmotsavam, and there was a little more area to cover,"
"We wanted to finish a part of the survey on Friday, but it was cloudy and we cancelled our plans. We started again on Saturday after the sun came out and conducted the survey for around two hours. Following this a small bird hit the drone and it crash-landed in the tree," he added.
"We are mapping the entire area with the help of the drone, so that we get a clear layout, and we can plan future development projects based on it. This will also help in keeping any illegal constructions under check," Siva Kumar said.
While drones are banned in Tirumala, passenger planes continue to fly overhead.
In July last year, the Civil Aviation Ministry said that it was not possible to declare 'no fly zone' over Tirumala hills in Andhra Pradesh, as it would further reduce the accessibility to Tirupati airport.
"Due to terrain constraints around the Tirupati airport, the airport is already restricted to single runway operations and any additional restrictions in the form of no fly zone over Tirumala hills will further reduce the accessibility to such an important airport," then Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha had said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.