The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India, Tuesday, released the standard operating procedure for use of drones in agricultural practices such as pesticide application for crop protection and for spraying soil and crop nutrients.
Releasing the SOPs, the Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar said, the adoption of drone technology is the need of the times and will benefit farmers. The minister informed that the drones were used for the first time in warding off the locust attacks in various states. He said that the government is making continuous efforts to infuse new technologies in agriculture so as to provide a sustainable solution in the context of enhancing the productivity as well as efficiency of the agriculture sector.
The SOP for drone regulation for pesticide application covers important aspects like statutory provisions, flying permissions, area distance restrictions, weight classification, overcrowded areas restriction, drone registration, safety insurance, piloting certification, operation plan, air flight zones, weather conditions, SOPs for pre, post and during operation, emergency handling plan.
Considering the unique advantages of drone technologies in agriculture, the Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare in consultation with all the stakeholders of this sector has brought out standard operating procedures for use of drones in pesticide and nutrient application that provides concise instructions for effective and safe operations of drones.
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The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) commonly known as drones have great potential to revolutionise Indian agriculture and ensure the country’s food security. The National Drone Policy has been notified and the Drone Rules 2021 have been made significantly easier for people and companies in the country to now own and operate drones. The requisite fees for permissions have also been reduced to nominal levels.
Drones are well-equipped with many features like multi-spectral and photo cameras and can be used in many areas of the agriculture sector such as monitoring crop stress, plant growth, predicting yields, deliver props like herbicides, fertilisers and water. Drones can be used for assessing the health of any vegetation or crop, field areas inflicted by weeds, infections and pests and based on this assessment, the exact amounts of chemicals needed to fight these infestations can be applied thereby optimising the overall cost for the farmer. Drone planting systems have also been developed by many startups which allow drones to shoot pods, their seeds and spray vital nutrients into the soil. Thus, this technology increases the consistency and efficiency of crop management, besides reducing the cost.
The farmers face many problems like unavailability or high cost of labours, health problems by coming in contact with agrochemicals such as fertilisers and pesticides while applying them in the field and bite by insects or animals. In this context, drones can help farmers in avoiding these troubles in conjunction with the benefits of being a green technology. The use of drones in agriculture may also give ample opportunities to provide employment to people in rural areas.
During the release of the SOPs event in the Agriculture Ministry, Secretary Agriculture, Sanjay Agarwal delivered an address on the advantages of drone technologies. Others who witnessed the event were Ministers of State for Agriculture, Kailash Choudhary and Shobha Karandlaje. Senior officials of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), state government officials and owners of the custom hiring centres all across the country witnessed this event through a webcast.