PM Modi launches 100 Kisan drones in unique farm blitz
PM Modi’s government has been pushing for greater private investments in the farm sector, which contributes 21% to the country’s GDP. But farmers in several states have been protesting to demand a legal guarantee for minimum prices of their produce.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday virtually launched 100 ‘Made in India’ agricultural drones across the country, which carried out farm operations in unique simultaneous flights. The PM labelled it a “milestone” for Indian agriculture.
The drone blitz is said to be, by far, the largest collective agricultural drone exercise in the country. The Prime Minister said new technologies would bring a “world of opportunities for farmers and youth”.
A raft of recent policy relaxations and incentives, including proposals in the Union Budget 2022-23, has opened up India’s vast agriculture sector for commercial use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles.
“This is a new chapter in the direction of modern agricultural facilities of the 21st century. I am confident that this beginning will not only prove to be a milestone in development of the drone sector but also will also open the sky to unlimited possibilities,” the PM tweeted after the mega launch.
Modi’s government has been pushing for greater private investments in the farm sector, which contributes 21% to the country’s GDP. But farmers in several states have been protesting to demand a legal guarantee for minimum prices of their produce.
Nearly half of all Indians depend on a farm-based income, but a majority of India’s agriculturists are small cultivators with low yields. In December 2021, the government scrapped a set of reformist laws to lift curbs on food trade, after a year of protests.
Analysts say drones could prove transformative, making farming efficient, although the costs involved are still high.
An agricultural drone, which typically operates using Internet-based smart technologies, can undertake precise farm operations, from spraying to monitoring crop health. They can cost anywhere between ₹5-10 lakh.
A recent government incentive provides grants that make ownership of farm drones virtually cost-free for state-run institutions.
The drones have been manufactured by Chennai-based Garuda Aerospace, a home-grown start-up. According to the PM’s tweet, the company informed Modi it would manufacture 100,000 drones in the next 2 years. “This will generate fresh employment and new opportunities for the youth,” the PM said.
The Union Budget 2022-23 announced a special push for Kisan (farmer) drones. The budget also aimed to create public-private partnerships for high-tech farm services.
On Feb 10, Anand Mahindra, the chairman of Mahindra group, announced a major decision to scale up farm drones. “Drones are destined to become a part of our daily lives. But nowhere will they have a more beneficial effect than in farmlands,” he tweeted.
Farmers’ producer organizations or large collectives are now eligible to receive grants up to 75% of the cost of the drone for demonstrations.
The government has also provisioned a contingency expenditure of ₹6000 per hectare to implementing agencies that do not want to purchase drones but will hire them for demonstrations.
The contingent expenditure to implementing agencies that purchase drones for drone demonstrations would be limited to Rs.3000 per hectare. These grants for promotion drone technologies will be available till March 31, 2023, the senior official quoted above said.
Drone hiring centres will also receive special funding to provide agricultural services through drones. This includes 40% of the basic cost of drone and its attachments or ₹4 lakh, whichever is lower.
“Agricultural drones will have to be offered cheaply through custom hiring centres. This will be possible if firms can achieve scale through widespread use,” said Aranyak Nirverkar, an analyst with Aggrow, a farm technology firm.