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Drones 101: Their Use in Agriculture, Price, Government’s Schemes & Laws

Drones are all set to take over the Indian Agriculture Industry. Let us discuss the different aspects in detail.

Sugandh Bhatnagar
Use of Drone in Agriculture Field
Use of Drone in Agriculture Field

Drones have entered the Indian market pretty fast. It was only in August 2021, when the Ministry of Civil Aviation liberalized, the Drones Use Policy, allowing certain types of Drones to fly without prior permission. Following which the Department of Agriculture & Farmer’ Welfare issued the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the use of drones in spraying pesticides on agricultural fields.  

Cut to - February 2022 when these Un-piloted Aerial Vehicles found a special mention in the Union Budget 2022-23. Further, PM Modi flagged 100 Kisan drones this year as a part of ‘Drone Kisan Yatra’. 

What can drones be used for in Agriculture? 

Most people think of these drones as mere data collecting devices with sensors like cameras, LIDAR, are mounted on them for crop assessment and digitization of land records, however, drones may be used for a lot more than just that. One excellent example is the use of the Kisan drone as a pesticide sprayer (a.k.a. flying sprayer). These drones have tanks with a capacity of up to 5 – 10 kg filled with insecticides and liquid fertilizers.  

Moreover, drones save a lot of time and effort as they can spray insecticides on about 1 acre of land in just 15 minutes.  

Agriculture Drone Price in India: 

An agricultural drone often uses Internet-based smart technology to operate and performs precision farm activities such as spraying and crop health monitoring might range in price from 5 lakh to 10 lakh. 

Drone services are initially expensive. Because of the overwhelming economies of scale, it will eventually become cheaper. We'll also have to consider the cost of human health in manual spraying versus drone spraying. 

Government’s Initiatives to Include Drones in Agriculture: 

A recent government incentive provides payments to state-run institutions that make owning farm drones nearly cost-free. Farmers’ Producers Organisations or large collectives can obtain funding up to 75 percent of the cost of the drone for demonstrations. 

The government has also set aside Rs 6,000 per acre as a contingency fund for implementing agencies that do not want to buy drones but want to hire them for demonstrations

“The contingency expenditure to implementing agencies for drone demonstrations would be capped at Rs 3,000 per acre. These grants for the promotion of drone technologies will be available till March 31, 2023”, an official quoted. 

Drone hiring centers will also receive special funding to provide agricultural services through drones. This includes 40% of the basic cost of drone and its attachments or Rs 4 lakh, whichever is lower. 

Standard Operating Procedure for Using Drones: 

The Ministry of Civil Aviation issued an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) which lists out instructions, provisions, and requirements for drones, drone pilots, and drone operators to follow during an aerial insecticide spraying operation.  

The provisions of this SOP will specify the classes of insecticides that are approved for aerial spraying. As per the Insecticides Rules 1971, the aerial spraying of insecticides using drones will be subjected to additional provisions. Some of the most important provisions are as follows:

  • The area for insecticide spraying should be marked before the flight by the drone operator.

  • Only approved insecticides must be used

  • Washing decontamination and first-aid facilities shall be provided by the operators.

  • Animals or individuals not connected with the operation must not be permitted to enter the operation premises for a specific period.

  • The drone pilots shall undergo insecticides specialization training including clinical effects of the insecticides. 

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