Government to promote drone use in agriculture; provide grants to agri institutes

In a major boost to promote precision farming in India, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has issued guidelines to make drone technology affordable to the stakeholders of this sector.

The guidelines of “Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization” (SMAM) have been amended, which envisages granting upto 100 percent of the cost of agriculture drone or Rs 10 lakh, whichever is less, as grant for purchase of drones by the Farm Machinery Training & Testing Institutes, ICAR institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and State Agriculture Universities for taking up large-scale demonstrations of this technology on the farmers’ fields.

The Farmers Producers Organisations (FPOs) would be eligible to receive grants up to 75 percent of the cost of agriculture drone for its demonstrations on the farmers’ fields, a release from the Ministry of Agriculture said.

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A contingency expenditure of Rs 6,000 per hectare would be provided to implementing agencies that do not want to purchase drones but will hire them for demonstrations from custom hiring centres (CHCs), hi-tech hubs, drone manufacturers, and startups.

In order to provide agricultural services through drone application, 40 percent of the basic cost of drone and its attachments or Rs 4 lakh, whichever less would be available as financial assistance for drone purchase by existing Custom Hiring Centres set up by Cooperative Society of Farmers, FPOs, and Rural entrepreneurs.

The new CHCs, or Hi-tech Hubs that will be established by the Cooperative Societies of Farmers, FPOs, and rural entrepreneurs with financial assistance from SMAM, RKVY or any other schemes, can also include drone as one of the machines along with other agricultural machines in the projects of CHCs/Hi-tech Hubs.

Agriculture graduates establishing Custom Hiring Centres would be eligible to receive 50 percent of the basic cost of drone and its attachments or up to Rs 5 lakh in grant support for drone purchases. Rural entrepreneurs should have passed Class 10 examination or its equivalent from a recognised board; and should have remote pilot licence from an institute specified by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) or from any authorised remote pilot training organisation.

The subsidised purchase of agriculture drones for CHCs/Hi-tech Hubs will make the technology affordable, resulting in their widespread adoption. This would make drones more accessible to the common man in India and will also significantly encourage domestic drone production.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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