The PLIs for drones and robots will be the fourth set of incentives offered by MeitY,(HT Archive)
The PLIs for drones and robots will be the fourth set of incentives offered by MeitY,(HT Archive)

Centre planning scheme to push for production, export of drones

India ranks low globally when it comes to production of drones and robots, and the country’s drone regulatory policy is still a work in progress. The scheme to push production of robotics and drones will be rolled out with PLIs on the lines of those offered to mobile handset makers.
By Deeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:37 AM IST

The ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY), in a first-of-its-kind policy, plans to offer a major boost to the manufacturing and export of drones and robots, putting on the table production-linked incentives (PLIs), people familiar with the matter said.

India ranks low globally when it comes to production of drones and robots, and the country’s drone regulatory policy is still a work in progress. The policy for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) falls under the purview of the ministry of civil aviation, and will spell out who can fly a drone, in which places and with what kind of payload. The scheme to push production of robotics and drones will be rolled out with PLIs on the lines of those offered to mobile handset makers, the people cited in the first instance said.

The government in October cleared 16 proposals by domestic and international companies entailing investment of Rs.11,000 crore under the PLI scheme to manufacture mobile phones worth Rs.10.5 lakh crore over the next five years. “The mobile phone PLI aims to create approximately $8 billion production per players, with overall $150 million incentives given out over five years,” said one of the people familiar with the matter. “Similarly, for drones and robotics, the tally will be at least $2 billion production per player.” The person mentioned above added that the market for drones and robotics was still an emerging one and the scheme will help India capture a foothold in the global market.

The PLIs for drones and robots will be the fourth set of incentives offered by MeitY, which rolled out similar schemes for manufacturers of laptops and tablets, and other electronic components such as wearables and headphones.

A second person familiar with the matter said demand for robotics and drones is potentially huge, with companies such as Amazon Inc. investing heavily in UAVs. “All delivery services will have to reorient themselves to accommodate the new technology,” the second person said. According to experts, while India has capabilities in Artificial Intelligence (AI ) and robotics, it hasn’t been able to leverage the manufacturing sector to scale up productions.

On a global scale, India is low in the robotics and AI sector, which has both civilian and military applications, said Umakanth Soni, chief executive officer of AI and Robotics Technologies Park. “It is great that MeitY is looking at doing this.” India has vast potential as a producer of drones, said Chirag Sharma of HubbleFly, a local drone manufacturer. “The industry has not seen scale in terms of a consumption point of view, incentives would be needed,” he said.

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