Context: The Prime Minister highlighted that the initiatives like Kisan Rail, DBT transfers, Soil Health Cards, e-NAM, and neem coating of urea, have integrated and scaled-up technology in agriculture during the PM Kisan Samman Sammelan which was held recently.
- He also highlighted drones are another such revolutionary technology to add to farmers’ prosperity and dignity.
- As per the latest report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), drones have the potential to be the harbinger of the “technology-led transformation” of Indian agriculture.
- In India’s $600 billion agriculture sector, they are currently used for pesticide and nutrient application, mapping water spread area, sampling water, mapping macrophyte infestation, etc.
About Drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle:
- An unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without any human pilot, crew or passengers on board.
- UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system, which includes a ground-based controller and a system of communications with the UAV additionally.
- Drones have been divided into five categories based on their weight (existing rules)-
- Nano: Less than or equal to 250 grams
- Micro: From 250 grams to 2 kg
- Small: From 2 kg to 25 kg,
- Medium: From 25 kg to 150 kg,
- Large: Greater than 150 kg.
Revolutionising Indian agriculture with aid of Drones:
- Precision agriculture:
- As per WEF, drone usage could reduce the cost of application by 20 percent and also mitigate health hazards of manual work, thereby promoting precision agriculture.
- Drones enable data collection and resource-efficient nutrient application.
- This data facilitates crop production forecast and evidence-based planning.
- With drones, government initiatives like Per Drop More Crop will improve, and water use inefficiency in irrigation will decline.
- Agri-research will become “highly customized and localised” with drones.
- Streamlining of schemes:
- Drones’ data integrated with GIS and Google Earth satellite images will eventually streamline schemes like PMFBY by aiding crop-cutting experiments, crop-loss estimation, insurance determination, and dispute resolution.
- Better cropping patterns:
- The government can announce relief packages for farmers in time, leading to better sowing, irrigation, and harvesting cycles.
- Capturing backward and forward linkages:
- With objective and standardized data on crop quality, food processing industries will procure from farmers at better prices.
- Agri-exports will also increase with technology-supporting compliance with global standards.
Challenges before Indian Farming community:
- Eighty five percent of the Indian farmers are small and marginal landholders and the drones cost between ₹1 lakh and ₹10 lakh.
- The drone acquisition will increase the cost of cultivation by 45 percent despite productivity gains.
- To address this, FPOs and custom hiring centres should be encouraged to buy and loan them to the farmers for a nominal fee.
- The government provides subsidies in the range of 40-60 percent for the cost of drones.
- As per an ICAR report, India faces challenges due to weather dependency of drones, improper internet connectivity across farms, unskilled end user, and potential for misuse.
Government of India Initiatives to promote drone technology:
- The Indian arm of the Swiss-based firm launched a drone yatra to cover 10,000 km across 13 States from Mancher near Pune in Maharashtra.
- A few firms such as Unnati, an Agri-tech start-up platform, have launched drone services. The firm plans to spray 20,000 acres of land by the end of 2022 and increase drones’ spray capacity by 4 times next year.
- The Indian Government is popularizing the use of drones by offering various financial assistance to purchase drones for demonstrations.
- Drone purchases by Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs) are given 40 percent assistance.
- The Centre is providing ₹6,000 per hectare as a contingency fund to farmers to hire drones from CHCs.
- The central government notified the Drone Rules 2021 with the following features:
- Abolish the need for various approvals, including certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permits, authorisation of R&D organisation and student remote pilot license.
- It shall be developed as a user-friendly single-window system. There will be minimal human interface and most permissions will be self-generated.
- The draft rules reduced the airport perimeter from 45 km to 12 km.
- The rules state that no flight permissions would be required to fly upto 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.
- No pilot license would be needed for micro drones for non-commercial use, nano drones and for R&D organisations.
- There would be no restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India.
- The Ministry will also facilitate the development of drone corridors for cargo deliveries and a drone promotion council will be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime.
- The draft rule also provides for safety features such as real-time tracking beacon, and geo-fencing, which are expected to be notified in the future and a six-month lead time will be provided for compliance.
- Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will also cover drone taxis.
- The need is to scale up drone use in the agriculture sector from the present 10,000 aerial vehicles.
- Civil military engagement should be promoted to realise gains from the cross-industry application of drones.
- Consultations may be held with experienced strategic partners like Israel where AI-enabled drones are used for mapping plots, assessing crop damage, and even plucking only ripe apples.
- A dedicated research fund and a ‘sandbox’ or ‘green microcosm’ should be provided to the private players.
Thus, use of drones in agriculture will revolutionise farm operations and empower our farmers, especially the smallholders with information and applications that will help them enhance their yields and income in the long run and help the Indian agriculture sector make a huge leap.
Source: The Hindu
Previous Year Question
Q.1) Consider the following activities :
- Spraying pesticides on a crop field
- Inspecting the craters of active volcanoes
- Collecting breath samples from spouting whales for DNA analysis
At the present level of technology, which of the above activities can be successfully carried out by using drones ? (2020)
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 1 and 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3