Although hobby drones may come to mind as the tiny flying objects that children love, there are now many really useful uses for their slightly larger brothers. Not only can these semi-professional, four-propeller machines be equipped with weapons, but they also play an important role in agriculture. They can also be a “saviour” for small farms in India.
When we first saw these hobby drones on the shelves of the shops, we perhaps had no idea how much potential these clever little machines had. Such small drones (we don’t mean their big brothers in combat, of course) are now used all over the world, including in ad-hoc combat in Ukraine, and of course in cartography, filming, marketing, agriculture or disaster recovery and survivor search. The only limit to their uses is people’s imagination.
In India, drones are also a huge help. CBNC reports that Indian farmers are benefiting enormously from these modern tools.
“Workers nowadays tend to work in offices or factories, so we had to turn to technology.” – says an Indian farmer.
But they don’t mind, because experience shows that drones are more cost-effective and much faster than human labour at certain tasks. For example, in applying sprays and crop protection products: the expert in the video above explains that drones use “up to 70 percent less pesticide and 80 percent less water” over the same area.
What can a drone designed for agricultural work do ?
Drones are now being widely used in agriculture in India, including for fertilizer application and plot mapping, spraying and early detection of diseased crops. The solution for agricultural applications, which uses a high-resolution camera, makes the work even more efficient and faster. And for disease detection, artificial intelligence is used to analyse frames at lightning speed.
Depending on the size and configuration of the drone an agricultural drone can cost between 1 and 10 million rupees, which is very expensive even with government subsidies. However, this is not a barrier to widespread use, with many people opting to rent rather than buy.
They would design their own drones, they don’t need Chinese
In February last year, India banned the import of drones, except those needed by the military or for research and development. The government wants to develop a domestic industry capable of designing and assembling drones and producing the parts needed to make them.
“Drones are a major job creator because of their versatility and ease of use, and they can help drive economic growth, especially in remote areas of India,” said Amber Dubey, former Minister of State in the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
“Given the development and huge domestic demand, India could be a global drone development hub by 2030.” – says Dubey.
However, he added that it could take many years to achieve this goal. According to him, the industry needs a strong regulatory authority that can oversee safety and also help develop an air traffic control system for hobby drones.
Currently, many components, including batteries, engines and flight controllers, are still imported from other countries, mainly China and Taiwan. But the government is confident that an incentive scheme will help boost domestic firms.
“It may take up to 2-3 years to build up the parts industry as it traditionally works with low margins and high volumes,” Dubey concluded.