Taking a significant step toward promoting precision farming in India, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has issued guidelines to make drone technology affordable to the stakeholders of this sector. The guidelines of “Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization” (SMAM) have been amended which envisages grants upto 100% of the cost of an agriculture drone or Rs. 10 lakhs, whichever is less, for the purchase of drones by Farm Machinery Training & Testing Institutes, ICAR institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, and State Agriculture Universities for large-scale demonstrations of this technology on farmers’ fields.
The Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) would be eligible to receive grants of up to 75% of the cost of agriculture drones for their demonstrations on the farmers’ fields.
A contingency expenditure of Rs. 6,000 per hectare would be provided to implementing agencies that do not wish to purchase drones but instead wish to hire drones for demonstrations from Custom Hiring Centres, Hi-tech Hubs, Drone Manufacturers, and Start-Ups. The contingent expenditure to implementing agencies for drone demonstrations would be limited to Rs. 3,000 per hectare. The grants and financial assistance would be available until March 31, 2023.
To provide agricultural services via drone application, existing Custom Hiring Centers set up by Cooperative Society of Farmers, FPOs, and Rural Entrepreneurs would offer 40 percent of the basic cost of the drone and its attachments, or Rs. 4 lakhs, whichever is less, as financial assistance for drone purchase.
Agriculture graduates establishing Custom Hiring Centers would be eligible for a grant of up to Rs.5 lakhs or 50% of the basic cost of the drone and its attachments. Rural entrepreneurs must have passed the class tenth examination or its equivalent from a recognized Board and should have a remote pilot license from the Institute specified by the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) or from any authorized remote pilot training organization.
The subsidized purchase of agriculture drones for CHCs/Hi-tech Hubs will lower the cost of the technology, resulting in widespread adoption. This would make drones more accessible to the general public in India while also significantly encouraging domestic drone production.
Potential to revolutionize Indian agriculture:
Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have the potential to revolutionize Indian agriculture by ensuring the country’s food security. The Drone Rules 2021 have made it significantly easier for citizens and businesses in the country to own and operate drones after the national drone policy has been announced. Permission fees have also been reduced to nominal levels.
Drones have a variety of features, such as multi-spectral and photo cameras, and can be used in many aspects of agriculture, such as monitoring crop stress, plant growth, predicting yields, and delivering props such as pesticides, fertilizer, and water. They can be used to analyze the health of any vegetation or crop, as well as field areas infested with weeds, diseases, and pests, and the precise amounts of chemicals needed to combat these infestations can be applied based on this assessment, lowering the overall cost for the farmer.