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Government to Promote Drone use in Agriculture

Government to Promote Drone use in Agriculture


  • GS 3 || Economy || Agriculture || Agricultural Subsidies

Why in the news?

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.

Present Context:

  • Under PMFBY, MoAFW would be able to employ drones to collect remote sensing data in agricultural areas of 100 districts throughout the country for gram panchayat level yield estimation.
  • The conditional exemption granted will be effective for one year from the date of the permission letter’s issuance or until the Digital Sky Platform is operationalized, whichever comes first.
  • This exemption will only be effective if all restrictions and limitations are followed to the letter.
  • Even though MoAFW has been granted a conditional exemption, it must still acquire clearances from the local administration, the defence ministry, the home ministry, the Indian Air Force, and the Airports Authority of India.

About Drone:

  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, are aircraft that are either controlled from the ground by ‘pilots’ or, increasingly, fly autonomously to complete a pre-programmed mission.
  • Unmanned aircraft are divided into three categories: remotely piloted aircraft, autonomous aircraft, and model aircraft.
  • A remotely piloted aircraft is made up of one or more remote pilot stations, as well as any other components specified in the type design.

The guidelines issued to promote the use of drones in agriculture:

  • Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR): For the acquisition of drones, a grant of up to 100% of the cost of an agriculture drone, or ten lakhs, whichever is less, would be awarded. Only Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institutes, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, and State Agriculture Universities will be eligible for this grant.
  • Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) would be eligible for funds covering up to 75% of the cost of an agricultural drone for demonstrations on farmers’ fields.
  • Implementing agencies that do not want to buy drones but want to rent them for demonstrations from Custom Hiring Centers, Hi-tech Hubs, Drone Manufacturers, and Start-Ups would receive a contingency expenditure of Rs.6000 per hectares. However, they would receive only Rs 3,000/hectare if they are purchasing the drones for demonstrations.
  • Custom Hiring Centers (CHCs): Agriculture graduates who open Custom Hiring Centers (CHCs) will be eligible for a grant of up to 5 lakh to cover half of the cost of a drone and its attachments.
  • Existing Custom Hiring Centers established by Cooperative Society of Farmers, FPOs, and Rural Entrepreneurs are eligible for a grant of 40% (up to Rs. 4 lakh) on the drone’s base cost.

Significance of these guidelines on Drones:

  • Agriculture drones will be more inexpensive because of subsidised purchases for CHCs/Hi-tech Hubs, leading in wider usage.
  • This would make drones more available to the general public in India, while also encouraging local drone manufacturer

Advantages of using a drone in Agriculture:

  • Increased Production: The drone survey assists farmers in calculating the exact field area, segmenting different crops, and conducting soil mapping. Through thorough irrigation planning, sufficient crop health monitoring, better soil health knowledge, and responsiveness to environmental changes, the farmer can boost output capacities.
  • Effective and Adaptive Techniques: Drone use provides farmers with regular crop updates and aids in the development of stronger farming techniques. They can adjust to changing weather conditions and utilise resources efficiently.
  • Increased farmer safety: Using drones to spray pesticides in difficult-to-reach terrains, contaminated areas, taller crops, and power lines is safer and more convenient for farmers, and it also helps farmers avoid spraying crops, resulting in less pollution and chemicals in the soil.
  • Useful for Insurance Claims: Farmers utilise the data collected by drones to file crop insurance claims in the event of damage. While being insured, they even analyse the risks and losses linked with the land. Agri-drones are used by agricultural insurance companies for efficient and reliable data collection.

Disadvantages or Challenges:

  • Flight Period and Range: The majority of drones have a limited flight time, ranging from 20 minutes to an hour. This reduces the amount of land it can cover per charge.
  • Purchase Price: Drones with the qualities that make them suitable for agricultural usage are fairly expensive.
  • Weather Dependent: When compared to traditional aircraft, drones are more subject to weather conditions. For example, if the weather is bad, the UAV will not be able to manoeuvre properly or collect trustworthy data or photos.
  • Knowledge and Skill: In order to convey any usable information from the photographs, professional and knowledgeable workers must analyse them, making it difficult for farmers to comprehend their functions.

Why stricter rules and regulations are needed?

  • Drones were recently employed for the first time to drop explosive devices, resulting in blasts inside the technical sector of the Air Force Station in Jammu.
  • Drones have been used by Pakistan-based organisations to transfer guns, ammunition, and drugs into Indian Territory on a regular basis over the past two years.
  • According to government records, 167 drone sightings were registered along the Pakistani border in 2019, with 77 sightings in 2020.
  • Even in the safest cities on the planet, the prospect of a drone attack cannot be ruled out due to the rapid expansion of drone technology and the exponential rise of its global market in recent years.
  • Drones are becoming a security risk, especially in war zones where non-state actors are active and have easy access to technology.

Mains oriented question:

The subsidized purchase of agriculture drones for CHCs/Hi-tech Hubs will make the technology affordable, resulting in their widespread adoption. Write in detail how drone can bring evolution in agriculture. (200 words)