India greenlights drone-spraying for 477 agric chemicals

When it comes to drone technology at least, it seems the Indian government is putting its money where its mouth is.

After recently announcing that it was going to ban imports of drones for commercial or recreational use in order to promote the growth of the local drone industry, the government has scaled up its efforts to develop competitive unmanned aerial systems by availing grants and loans to start-ups and setting up training institutions with a bias towards robotics technology training.

And now, the government has set its sights on promoting the use of agricultural drones – on Tuesday, the country’s agriculture ministry approved 477 agriculture chemicals as fit and safe enough to be sprayed using agriculture drones; according to the Drone Federation of India (DFI).

In a statement, the DFI the Union Agriculture Ministry and the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIB&RC) had granted an interim approval for the pesticides, fungicides and plant growth regulators to be sprayed using drones for the next two years.

Before the latest announcement, each pesticide had to be approved by the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee, in a process that usually takes any time between eighteen and 24 months.

“Pesticide companies already registered with CIB&RC who wish to use registered chemical pesticides using drones can intimate the board secretariat with pesticide dosage, crop details, data generation action plan and other prerequisite information,” said the DFI

“In case pesticide companies would like to continue using drones for spraying pesticides after two years, they will be required to generate essential data during the interim period and get it validated from CIB&RC.”

Needless to say, the drone operators will have to adhere to the agriculture ministry’s Standard operating procedure (SOP) for using drones to spray pesticides and nutrients.

“After the liberalisation of the drone policy and providing government subsidy for the purchase of drones for agricultural activities, the decision to give interim approval to the knapsack registered pesticides shall boost the utilisation of Kisan Drones,” said DFI president Smit Shah, adding that the initiative was a step towards reaching the vision of “one village one drone” in the next three years.

“Drones are taking over agricultural farms with advanced applications such as spraying chemical pesticides and nutrients, surveying farmlands, and monitoring soil and crop health. The use of drones for agriculture spraying reduces the contact of humans with fertilisers, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals.”

While addressing a webinar on smart agriculture in February this year, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the need for wider utilisation of drone technology in the agriculture sector.

“Artificial intelligence is going to completely change the trade related to agriculture and farming in the 21st century,” Modi said. “The greater use of Kisan drones in agriculture is part of this change. Drone technology will be available at scale only when we promote local agriculture start-ups.”


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