Drones with their applications are making a big impact on the life around us as they are making a foray into every sector due to their multifarious usages and last mile connectivity. After the delivery giants like Amazon and Walmart started operating drones for commercial purpose, governments too are trying to use unmanned vehicles for public welfare. The government of India has come up with strong and effective policies for the growing range of commercial possibilities that the drone technology offers. The Prime Minister of India recently flagged off 100 Kisan drones, which can be used for spraying fertilisers and pesticides judiciously, at a lower cost and lesser time. Drones in agriculture can be used during farm operations, monitoring as well as for marketing purposes. They have the potential to take over the routine manual farm activities, optimise crop inputs, reduce wastages and cost and increase productivity.
India has seen a rapid advancement in the agriculture field in the recent years. The government is trying to plug gaps in the agriculture supply chain. Impetus is being given to advanced irrigation techniques, mechanisation in farm operations like harvesting, and strong logistics and post-harvesting technologies. Precision farming increases the efficiency of crop protection products. Spraying of pesticide is not easy because using tractors or manual labour results in wastage of products. On the other hand, drones use fertilisers, pesticides, nutrients smartly as they spray pesticides in specific areas, uniformly and in lesser time.
Drones also help farmers monitor the growth of crops through the cameras mounted on them. Without having to walk through fields, farmers can even check the growth of the entire crop and also check for any pest and diseases. It minimises the risk to health and environmental hazards associated with the spraying of agrochemicals. Kisan drones will have the capability of carrying 5-10 kg of crop inputs that can be sprayed uniformly on one acre of land in just 15 minutes. Farmers can even transport fresh fruits and seafood to local markets using these drones. This will facilitate faster, cost-effective transport with minimal damages. Moreover, the data captured using a drone can be used by farmers for buying insurance and settling claims in the wake of crop loss.
In India, many farmers are still poor and may not have the financial capacity to buy drones. Moreover, the small land holdings is another problem. In such a scenario, custom hiring centres run by farm cooperatives, farmers producer organisations (FPO) and even agri start-ups can play a crucial role in extending the benefits of drones to small and marginal farmers. The agriculture ministry offers Rs10 lakhs grant to agriculture institutes for the purchase of drones as well as 75 percent grant to FPOs. The government subsidy can facilitate easy access of drone technology to farmers. The work done by the drones will be much cheaper than human labour. If a group of farmers decides to use a drone for one cluster of many small farms, the input cost will come down significantly. It will certainly add to the farmers’ income. Drone use will also provide a new opportunity for skill development and employment for the rural youth.
India is set to adopt digital and precision farming to improve crop productivity. Drone is one big tool that has the potential to revolutionise the farming sector. The private industry has started exploiting the commercial benefits of drones a few years ago. Now it is pleasing to see the government is trying to use it on a large scale for the welfare of farmers. The Indian government has decided to manufacture 100,000 drones in the next two years, and they will be manufactured by a local start-up. It is also pushing for public-private partnerships for high-tech farm services in which drone technology will be a major player. All these efforts would not just encourage farmers to switch to digital and mechanised farming but also boost growth in the agribusiness sector and create more employment opportunities for the youth.