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 per cent of the cost of agriculture drone or Rs 10 lakh, whichever is less, as grant for purchase of drones by the Farm Machinery Training and 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 per cent of the cost of agriculture drone for its demonstrations on the farmers’ fields, a release from the Ministry of Agriculture said.
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 start-ups.
The contingent expenditure to implementing agencies that purchase drones for drone demonstrations would be limited to Rs 3,000 per hectare. The financial assistance and grants would be available until March 31, 2023.
In order to provide agricultural services through drone application, 40 per cent 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 CHCs, which are set up by Cooperative Society of Farmers, FPOs and rural entrepreneurs.
The new CHCs or the hi-tech hubs that will be established by the Cooperative Societies of Farmers, FPOs and rural entrepreneurs with financial assistance from SMAM, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana 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, the release said.
Agriculture graduates establishing CHCs would be eligible to receive 50 per cent of the basic cost of the 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 a remote pilot licence from an institute specified by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) or from any authorised remote pilot training organisation.
The drone operations are being permitted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and DGCA through the conditional exemption route.
MoCA has published Drone Rules 2021 vide GSR No. 589(E) dated August 25, 2021, to regulate the use and operation of drones in India. The Agriculture and Farmers Welfare department has also brought out standard operating procedures for use of drone application with pesticides for crop protection in agricultural, forestry, non-cropped areas, etc. and for drone application in spraying for soil and crop nutrients.