Adoption of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones offers enormous potential to revolutionise Indian agriculture by helping farmers address the challenges of water scarcity, pests, and diseases. The growing use of drones in agriculture are primarily driven by the increasing adoption of precision farming techniques and the growing demand for organic and sustainable farming. The use of drones in agriculture can help to:
- Increase crop yields
- Improve crop quality
- Reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers
- Reduce labour costs
- Improve farm management
Drones can be used for a variety of agricultural activities, including:
- Spraying pesticides and fertilizers on crops which will reduce the use of labour and improve the accuracy of spraying.
- Collecting data on soil health which can be used to improve fertilizer and irrigation practices.
- Monitoring crops for pests, diseases, and water stress enabling the farmers to take timely action to protect their crops.
- Collecting data on individual fields which enables precision farming or customized farming plans for each field.
The Union Finance Minister in her budget speech for 2022-23 said that the use of ‘Kisan Drones’ will be promoted for crop assessment, digitization of land records, spraying of insecticides, and nutrients. Subsequently, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 19, 2022, launched Kisan Drones at 100 places across the country.
Speaking at the occasion, the Prime Minister said that until a few years back, a drone was considered to be a technology related to the Army, or a device used to combat enemies, thus limiting our thought to that particular use. With the inauguration of Kisan drone facilities in Manesar, India was marking a new chapter in the direction of modern farming system of the 21st century.
Recognizing the huge potential of drones in agriculture, the Government has introduced various policies to promote their use in farming, including:
- The National Agricultural Drone Mission (NADM):With an aim of promoting use of drones in agriculture, the government provides subsidies for the purchase of drones and training for farmers on how to use them.
- The Drone Kisan Scheme:The Government provides loans to farmers for the purchase of drones besides providing training for farmers on how to use drones.
- The Agricultural Drones and Robotics (ADR) Policy: It provides a framework for the regulation of agricultural drones with an aim to promote the safe and responsible use of drones.
Funds for Kisan Drones
(i) Financial assistance @ 100% of the cost of drone up to a maximum of Rs. 10 lakhs per drone is provided for purchase of drones for their demonstration by institutes under Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Farm Machinery Training & Testing Institutes, KrishiVigyanKendras (KVKs), State Agriculture Universities (SAUs), State and other Central Government Agricultural Institutions/Departments and Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) of Government of India engaged in agricultural activities.
(ii) The Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) are provided grants up to 75% of the cost of agriculture drone for its demonstrations on the farmers’ fields.
(iii)A contingency expenditure of Rs. 6,000 per hectare is provided to the implementing agencies that do not want to purchase drones but will hire drones for demonstrations from Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs), Hi-tech Hubs, Drone Manufacturers and Start-Ups.
(iv) In order to make available drone services to farmers on rental basis, financial assistance @ 40% up to a maximum of Rs. 4 lakhs are provided for purchase of drones by CHCs under Cooperative Society of Farmers, FPOs and Rural entrepreneurs.
(v) Agriculture graduates establishing CHCs are eligible to receive financial assistance @ 50% of the cost of drone up to a maximum of Rs. 5 lakhs per drone.
(vi) For purchase of drones on individual ownership basis, the Small and Marginal, Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe, Women and North Eastern State farmers are provided financial assistance @ 50% of the cost up to a maximum of Rs. 5 lakhs and other farmers @ 40% up to a maximum of Rs. 4 lakhs.
- Kisan Drones, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Press Information Bureau, March 11, 2022