Government to Promote Drone use in Agriculture

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    • In a major boost to promote precision farming in India, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has issued guidelines to make drone technology affordable to the stakeholders of this sector.

    About

    • The drone operations are being permitted: by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Director General of Civil Aviation through the conditional exemption route.
    • Drone Rules 2021: Ministry of Civil Aviation has published ‘Drone Rules 2021’ to regulate the use and operation of Drones in India.
    • The Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has also brought out Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): for use of Drone application with pesticides for crop protection in agricultural, forestry, non-cropped areas, etc. and for Drone Application in Spraying for Soil and Crop Nutrients.
    • Comply with these rules: The demonstrating institutions and all the providers of agricultural services through drone application have to comply with these regulations and SOPs.

    Guidelines Issued

    • The guidelines of “Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization” (SMAM) have been amended
      • It envisages granting upto 100% of the cost of agriculture drone or Rs. 10 lakhs, whichever is less, as grant for purchase of drones by the Farm Machinery Training & Testing Institutes, ICAR institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and State Agriculture Universities.
    • The Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs)
      • Would be eligible to receive grants up to 75% of the cost of agriculture drone for its demonstrations on the farmers’ fields.
    • A contingency expenditure
      • Rs.6000 per hectare would be provided to implementing agencies that do not want to purchase drones but will hire drones for demonstrations from Custom Hiring Centres, Hi-tech Hubs, Drone Manufacturers and Start-Ups.
      • The contingent expenditure to implementing agencies that purchase drones for drone demonstrations would be limited to Rs.3000 per hectare.
      • The financial assistance and grants would be available until March 31, 2023.
    • In order to provide agricultural services through drone application
      • 40% of the basic cost of drone and its attachments or Rs.4 lakhs, whichever less would be available as financial assistance for drone purchase by existing Custom Hiring Centers which are set?up by Cooperative Society of Farmers, FPOs?and Rural entrepreneurs.
      • The new CHCs or the Hi-tech Hubs that will be established by the Cooperative Societies of Farmers, FPOs and Rural entrepreneurs with financial assistance from SMAM, RKVY or any other Schemes can also include Drone as one of the machines along with other agricultural machines in the projects of CHCs/Hi-tech Hubs.
    • Agriculture graduates establishing Custom Hiring Centers
      • They would be eligible to receive 50% of the basic cost of the drone and its attachments or up to Rs.5 lakhs in grant support for drone purchases.
      • Rural entrepreneurs should have passed class tenth examination or its equivalent from a recognized Board; and should have remote pilot license from an Institute specified by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) or from any authorized remote pilot training organization.

    Significance/ Benefits of Drone Technology

    • Widespread adoption: The subsidized purchase of agriculture drones for CHCs/Hi-tech Hubs will make the technology affordable, resulting in their widespread adoption.
    • This would make drones more accessible: to the common man in India and will also significantly encourage domestic drone production.
    • Enhanced Production – The farmer can improve production capabilities through comprehensive irrigation planning, adequate monitoring of crop health, increased knowledge about soil health, and adaptation to environmental changes.
    • Effective and Adaptive Techniques – Drone usage results in regular updates to farmers about their crops and helps develop strengthened farming techniques. They can adapt to weather conditions and allocate resources without any wastage.
    • Greater safety of farmers – It is safer and more convenient for farmers to use drones to spray pesticides in terrains challenging to reach, infected areas, taller crops, and power lines. It also helps farmers prevent spraying the crops, which leads to less pollution and chemicals in the soil.
    • 10x faster data for quick decision-making – Drone surveys back farmers with accurate data processing that encourages them to make quick and mindful decisions without second-guessing, allowing farmers to save the time invested in crop scouting.
    • Less wastage of resources – Agri-drones enable optimum usage of all resources such as fertilizer, water, seeds, and pesticides.
    • 99% Accuracy rate – The drone survey helps farmers calculate the precise land size, segment the various crops, and indulge in soil mapping.
    • Useful for Insurance claims – Farmers use the data captured through drones to claim crop insurance in case of any damages. They even calculate risks/losses associated with the land while being insured.
    • Evidence for insurance companies – Agricultural insurance sectors use Agri-drones for efficient and trustworthy data. They capture the damages that have occurred for the right estimation of monetary payback to the farmers.

    Problems and bottlenecks

    • Flight Time and Range: Due to relatively higher payloads, the flight duration of drones used in agriculture is short, ranging from 20-60 minutes. This results in limited coverage of land with every charge. The cost of drones increases significantly with longer flight time.
    • Initial Cost: Mostly, agricultural drones used for surveying have fixed wings and may cost very high based on features and sensors necessary for executing its intended use.
    • Connectivity: Online coverage is mostly unavailable in the arable farms. Under such a situation, any farmer intending to use drones has to invest in connectivity or buy a drone with local data storing capability in a format that can be transferred and processed later.
    • Weather Dependent: Under windy or rainy conditions, flying drones is not easy, unlike traditional aircrafts. Drones are weather dependent.
    • Knowledge and Skill: An average farmer cannot analyze drone images as it requires specialized skills and knowledge to translate it to any useful information.
    • Misuse: There is a chance of misuse to infringe the privacy of people and illegal transfer of information.

    Source: PIB