Transforming India through Drone Technology
Drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), are automated or remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs). Drone technology is revolutionary, impacting the lives of every citizen and aiding in 'ease-of-living.' On 27th May 2022, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi inaugurated India's biggest two-day Drone Festival - Bharat Drone Mahotsav 2022, to bridge the technology gap among the masses. Over 1600 delegates comprising government officials, foreign diplomats, armed forces, central armed police forces, Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), private companies and drone startups, participated in the Mahotsav. The presence of farmers, young engineers, entrepreneurs, and innovators highlighted the spirit of entrepreneurship and creativity in the sector as it prepares for a quantum leap. In addition, over 70 exhibitors showcased drones at the event to illustrate the importance of drone technology in various industries such as agriculture, healthcare, defence, disaster management, tourism, media, and entertainment. Furthermore, open-air demonstrations were held, and 150 drone pilot certificates were awarded. Thus, by empowering the masses with drone technology and making it a part of ordinary people's daily lives, the goal of 'Antyodaya' (welfare of all) can be achieved, ultimately leading to 'Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.'
India is developing a strong drone manufacturing ecosystem through new liberalised Drone Rules, released on 25th August 2021, and schemes such as the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI). Thus, with better technology, liberalised policies, and accelerated domestic manufacturing and exports, India's drone ecosystem is marching toward becoming a 'Global Drone Hub.' The liberalised new Drone Policy, 2021, and schemes like PLI, play a critical role in accelerating the pace of indigenisation in the defence sector and harnessing national capabilities in all their forms. In the coming years, no sector will be left untouched by the gradual penetration of drone technology, transforming India's infrastructure. The proposed drones-as-a-service (DRaaS) model has the potential to revitalise and expand India's fragmented drone industry, opening up new businesses and employment opportunities. The investment landscape for drones is expected to change in the coming years, with the NITI Aayog projecting a USD 15 billion market for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in India.
Owing to advances in artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, miniaturisation, materials science, thermal imaging, and other technologies, drones now have a wide range of applications listed below.
- The Kisan Drones have brought about an Agritech revolution. Kisan drones are being used for crop assessment, spraying insecticides, fertilisers, and seeds, warding off pests, and checking crop health to overcome the hurdles of low yield and crop failure.
- The 'i-Drone' was launched for Covid-19 vaccine delivery to develop an ecosystem for healthcare Drone deliveries. It provides quality health services in remote and inaccessible areas and is currently used in Manipur, Nagaland, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Under the PM SVAMITVA Yojana, for the first time, every property in the country's villages is being digitally mapped using drones, and approximately 65 lakh digital property cards have been generated. It has accelerated the entire process, making it easier and more convenient while also reducing human intervention and the possibility of error.
- Drones are also being used for 'Kedarnath reconstruction projects' following the destruction of Kedarnath due to flash floods in 2013.
- They are also being used for monitoring the country's development efforts.
- A LiDAR-based drone has been used to generate a high-resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and Geographic information system (GIS)-ready database for the Namani Gange project under the National Mission for Clean Ganga.
- For parcel delivery by drones, a pilot test was successfully executed by the Department of Posts in Kutch, Gujarat, under the guidance of the Union Ministry of Communications. In 30 minutes, the drone successfully delivered the medicine parcel over a distance of 46 kilometres.
- The smart tool can also help police with surveillance, situational analysis, crime control, VVIP security, disaster management, provide solutions for traffic jams, monitoring forest fires, and geo-track dispersed seeds to see their growth.
Drone technology will thus impact a wide range of industries in the future, ranging from agriculture to sports, land records to drought and flood relief.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has launched a unique unmanned traffic management (UTM) system, the Digital Sky Platform, to facilitate the registration and licencing of drones and operators and provide instant (online) clearances to operators for every flight. This platform allows pilots, devices, and service providers to register online. Given the potential of UAVs, they are expected to take over 80% of the tasks currently performed by manned aircraft. Advancements in the technology sector will provide opportunities for competence and capacity building, resulting in establishing a skilled ecosystem in India.