Since 2020, there has been a steep rise in the use of drone technology across the world. Governments have used drones to deliver essential COVID supplies, monitor public spaces, and sanitize areas. India has also seen numerous government initiatives that have helped keep the drone industry afloat and given it room to grow. Here are the top five drone initiatives.
Launched on 24th April 2020, the SVAMITVA scheme solely relies on drone technology. The scheme aims to carry out the world’s largest drone mapping operation by mapping 6 lakh villages. Through SVAMITVA, the government wants to tackle the long-reigning property ownership crisis in rural India. The SOI (Survey of India) along with private drone manufacturers like AUS (Aarav Unmanned Systems) are conducting drone operations across India.
Recently, the SVAMITVA project reached Uttarakhand to begin the GIS mapping process. This project is expected to take three to four years to complete. However, SOI would likely outsource data collection as well as data processing to private drone companies to speed up the process. This could help boost Indian drone companies to a great extent. Read more about the SVAMITVA scheme here.
2. Drone Rules 2021
One of the largest government initiatives for the Indian drone industry has undoubtedly been the liberalized drone regulations launched on August 24th, 2021. Titled the Drone Rules 2021, the new regulations bring in a lot of changes to the existing drone laws of India. For instance, the number of permits and approvals required by a drone operator has been reduced from 25 to 6. Additionally, import and NPNT-compliance of foreign-made drones has seen development.
Self certification and digitization of several approvals through the Digital Sky platform will make manufacturing, buying, and flying drones easier than before. To add to that, the DGCA also released an interactive airspace map for drones on the Digital Sky platform. The airspace map has all the red and yellow zones listed for every city in India. This will help drone operators better plan their flights and prevent drones from flying into restricted zones. Read about the new rules here.
3. SOP for Agri Drones
Alongside the Drone Rules 2021, the government also launched the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for Agricultural drones. The latest SOP subjects agricultural drones to a whole new set of regulations. The DGCA is essentially treating agricultural drones as a separate class of drones altogether. Therefore, their operation is subject to the guidelines and regulations mentioned in the SOP. This is a great move for both the agricultural sector as well as the commercial drone industry. The previous laws had bound agricultural drones to the same civilian laws thereby restricting their use. However, now agri drones can operate with an improved degree of freedom and better help the agricultural sector. Read more about the SOP here.
4. Hara Bhara Project
The Hara Bhara project is an outcome of the collaboration between the Telangana government and Marut Drones, a private drone manufacturer. The Hara Bhara project aims to plant 50 lakh trees in 33 districts of Telangana using drones. This is the first time that drones are being used to plant trees in India. The seedcopter drones will be loaded with seed-pods which will be fired into the ground from the drone to replenish the green cover of an area. This project aims to cover a total forest area of 12,000 hectares which is quite substantial. If executed as planned, it will set a distinguished milestone for drones in India. Read more about the Hara Bhara project here.
5. PLI Scheme for Drones and Drone Components
On September 15, 2021, the Government of India approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and drone components. The scheme aims to fulfill the vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ by financially aiding the Indian drone industry. The PLI scheme will allocate an amount of INR 120 crore for drones and drone components spread across a period of three financial years. This will come in terms of tax benefits to drone manufacturers if they meet a certain turnover threshold.
The benefits from this scheme will act as a catalyst to sustain and boost small drone manufacturers, eventually helping them scale up. An exciting feature of this scheme is that it will also cover drone-related software. Therefore, IT startups in the drone sector along with manufacturers can hope to largely benefit from the PLI scheme. Read more about the PLI scheme here.
The above-mentioned government initiatives are the ones that have made the most impact on the drone industry. Such policies could help India catch up with the rest of the world in terms of drone technology and application. However, several new policies are gradually being introduced. Therefore, India’s drone sector is relatively young and is rapidly growing.