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Drones can Revolutionise the Agriculture Sector

Context:

The utilization of drones has the potential to transform the agricultural sector. The government’s focus on precision agriculture indicates that drones are on the verge of becoming a crucial element in farming practices. In Punjab, where drones were previously associated with illicit activities along the border, there is now a shift towards leveraging them to revolutionize agriculture.

Relevance:

GS3- E-technology in the aid of farmers

Mains Question:

The utilization of drones has the potential to transform the agricultural sector. Comment critically. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

Government Initiatives in This Regard:

  • These Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) represent a cutting-edge solution for enhancing agriculture’s efficiency, sustainability, and profitability. To empower rural women through Self Help Groups (SHGs), the government launched the ‘Namo Drone Didi’ Scheme in December last year, allocating Rs.1261 Crore for the period from 2024-25 to 2025-26. The scheme aims to equip and train at least 15,000 women SHGs.
  • In terms of market potential, a high-end drone capable of multiple tasks costs around Rs 15 lakh. However, government-subsidized schemes offering subsidies of Rs 4-8 lakh on each drone, along with a 3% interest subvention on loans, are expected to significantly impact the Indian agriculture drone market. The market is projected to grow at an annual average rate of over 25% from 2024 to 2028.
  • The Government of India (GOI) has exempted agricultural income from taxation. Additionally, in an effort to stimulate the agricultural economy, subsidies are granted for various aspects including fertilizers, irrigation, power, exports, credit, agricultural equipment, and infrastructure.
  • The GOI is actively involved in advancing the use of technology in agriculture. In the first quarter of the fiscal year 2022, the GOI updated regulations related to the utilization of agricultural drones.
  • A certification scheme for drones, promoting their use in agriculture spraying, was introduced by the GOI. It provided a 100% subsidy or INR 1 million to entities such as Farm Machinery Training Institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Central Island Agricultural Research Institute, and agricultural universities.
  • Moreover, a contingency fund of INR 6,000 per hectare was allocated to facilitate the acquisition of drones from custom hiring centers. This initiative aims to further support the integration of drone technology in agriculture.

The Agricultural Drone Market:

  • Globally, the agricultural drone market is anticipated to reach USD 4.7 billion by the end of 2026, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.3% during the forecast period from 2024 to 2026.
  • As per certain reports, the utilization of drones in the Indian agricultural sector is projected to experience a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 38.5%, reaching a value of $121.43 million by the year 2030. The rate of adoption for drones is anticipated to constitute 2% of the overall expenditure on agricultural machinery.
  • As outlined in a FICCI-EY report, the drone sector has the potential to enhance India’s manufacturing capacity to around $50 billion by the year 2030, leading to the creation of over 500,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities.
  • The report further predicts that the drone market in India is expected to achieve a size of $885.7 million by 2021, with agriculture playing a significant role in fueling the demand.

Significance of Drones in Agriculture:

  • The adoption of drone technology acts as an advanced decision support system, enabling targeted interventions and minimizing the wastage of crucial resources like water, chemicals, and fertilizers.
  • Drones provide high-resolution imagery, offering valuable insights for targeted interventions and preventing unnecessary treatments across entire fields.
  • Drones equipped with hyperspectral imaging technology revolutionize crop health monitoring, enabling early detection of pest infestations up to two weeks earlier than traditional methods. This early detection can potentially save up to 30% of the harvest that might otherwise be lost.
  • Precision crop management is crucial for balancing agricultural production and environmental preservation. Drones accurately identify areas that require water, allowing farmers to reduce water usage by approximately 25%, promoting sustainable agriculture.
  • Efficient field scouting is facilitated by drones, covering vast agricultural areas quickly and providing timely and accurate data. This is particularly valuable for smallholder farmers, allowing them to address potential issues before they become economically damaging.
  • Data-driven decision-making is enhanced by the extensive datasets generated by drones, offering insights into crop health, growth patterns, and other variables.
  • Farmers can optimize planting densities and nutrient management based on drone-collected data, leading to higher yields and better profits.
  • Drones serve as a cost-effective ally in a sector with thin profit margins. Early detection of issues and data-backed decision-making help farmers avoid costly interventions later in the crop cycle.
  • Equipped with weather monitoring technology, drones serve as flying weather stations, providing real-time data crucial for planning farm operations and responding to changing weather patterns.

Conclusion:

The government’s increasing focus on precision agriculture suggests that drones are becoming integral to crop cultivation practices. By combining traditional farming expertise with advanced technology, farmers can anticipate a more optimistic and fruitful future. The government’s ability to offset 80% of the drone adoption cost through savings on fertilizer and pesticide subsidies further emphasizes the potential benefits of integrating drone technology into agriculture.


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