Amid the coronavirus pandemic, a new threat to the agriculture industry has been plaguing various parts of Northern India. A giant swarm of locust entered the Indian borders via the Sindh province in Pakistan on April 11th, 2020. The locusts first entered districts of Rajasthan. A few days later they migrated to Madhya Pradesh, followed by Uttar Pradesh. This gigantic swarm then made its way to parts of Delhi. As per reports, a square kilometer of an area consists of 40 million locusts, and these insects can devour as much food as 35,000 people in a day.

This swarm of insects has already destroyed around 90,000 hectares of crops in 20 districts of Rajasthan. Locals have resorted to drumming utensils, playing loud music to scare away the swarm, and more recently by deploying drones. If left uncontrolled, the maturing swarm can rapidly multiply in the upcoming monsoon season and cause a famine in the country.

locust swarms in India
Locust swarms in India

Drones can stop the spread of locust swarms in India

For the first time, India has begun using drones to deal with the infestation menace. Drones are a cost-effective and effective solution against swarms of locust. The main method of dispersing and preventing the insects from decimating acres of food crops is the spray of pesticides. Unlike aircraft, drones can be deployed in a few minutes and cover large areas of land. Agricultural drones can spray an even layer of pesticides over 2.5 acres of land in a standard 15-minute flight.

As a trial, drones were tested in Jaipur’s district Samod village. The drones were helpful in reaching inaccessible terrain. It proved as additional support to manual sprayers perched on tractors and sprinklers. State Agriculture Commissioner Om Prakash said, “Drones can spray insecticide at the height and in places where regular sprayers cannot reach. They can kill locusts which are perched on high trees these days,”

Government Opened Tenders for Drone Sprayers

As soon as the locust menace hit Indian crops, the Agriculture department was quick to release tenders for deploying 30 drones in the badly affected state of Rajasthan. Drones can operate against locusts in two primary methods. First by flying over fields and spraying pesticides in places where the locusts are predicted to land. Secondly, drones can fly over a locust swarm and directly spray pesticides before they reach their destination. Since locust swarms fly low and don’t attack drones, this method is another useful technique.

Garuda Aerospace will deploy drones in Uttar Pradesh

Drone service provider, Garuda Aerospace, will reportedly deploy its drones to spray anti-locust pesticides in Uttar Pradesh. The locust swarms, after attacking 90,000 hectares in Rajasthan alone, have moved towards Uttar Pradesh.

pesticide-spraying drone by garuda aerospace
Pesticide-spraying drone by Garuda Aerospace

Agnishwar Jayaprakash, Managing Director of city-based Garuda Aerospace said that the company received orders to deploy five drones from Banda University of Agriculture and Technology, UP. Additionally, 10 drone pilots will be sent to operate the drones.

The aim is to fly the drones for a total of 50 hours. Garuda Aerospace is the company that carried out the anti-locust drone operations in Rajasthan as well and is not quickly mobilizing the service in other parts of the country. Government agencies track and predict the flight path of the locust swarms and inform the drone service provider of the next landing zone. The notice is short (1-2 days prior) and in that span of time, drones are deployed to the marked zones. The drone operations in UP are expected to begin on 29th June 2020.

Drones are gradually gaining prominence

“India is the first country to control locust by using drones after finalising the protocols and getting all statutory approvals. Major operations are concentrated in Rajasthan where maximum resources are committed,” the Agriculture Ministry said in a release.

Locust swarms are moving at a fast pace and have already been spotted in the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra. Along with the rapidly spreading locusts, drone operations are already being undertaken to control them.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic coupled with the locust swarms has helped India realize the utility of drones. From drone deliveries to decontamination, drones have proved a viable asset all across the world. The new drone regulations that are yet to be launched will revolve around making drones a large commercial sector in India and making drones accessible to most people.