The industry must develop special purpose and low-cost drones to meet requirements of the farming community, a senior Civil Aviation official said on Wednesday. "There are around 1 lakh villages which can be benefitted by the drones. We can design special-purpose drones and industry must focus on developing low-cost drones for them," Joint Secretary in the Civil Aviation Ministry Amber Dubey said at a webinar organised by industry body FICCI.
Highlighting the potential of drones' usage in the agriculture sector, Dubey also stressed on industry tie-up with central or state level agricultural universities or institutions for getting the necessary approvals, FICCI said in a statement. Speaking on this issue, Joint Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry Shomita Biswas said that drone-enabled technology can be very useful in soil analysis of the fields.
This can also help us in better irrigation management and maintaining correct nitrogen levels, she said, and urged the startups to create drone planting systems, which will reduce the planting cost considerably. Agriculture Commissioner S K Malhotra said, "Drone spraying would help the farmers to increase their productivity, lower water consumption, higher efficiency; besides being safe for human and the environment".
Malhotra, who is also chairman of the Registration Committee on drones said it is looking into various aspects of product approvals through drones application. CropLife India CEO Asitava said with the recent permission of use of drones for control of locusts by the government, India has become the first country in the world with broad specification for drones that can fly at night.
"There is an opportunity to extend this technology to other crops and areas of application through a robust and pragmatic science-based policy framework," he suggested. FICCI Committee on Drones Chairman Rajan Luthra said startup firms, industry, government agencies and academia are collaborating actively as a cohesive drone ecosystem.
India has over 150 drone start-ups compared to the US or Israel, and top management of most large companies are today understanding the potential impact of drones, he said. "FICCI is working closely with all stakeholders to act as a catalyst for the collaboration and supporting the enabling regulatory frameworks," he added.
A technical paper on 'Drone Usage For Agrochemical Spraying' by FICCI and CropLife India was released in the virtual meeting. The paper highlighted the application of agrochemical spraying via drones in India, the benefits and potential risk and mitigation strategy around it.