Drone industry in India to contribute to agritech startup ecosystem

Chairman of the Board of Governors at IIT Varanasi, Sh Kota Harinarayana asserted that there is great potential for the drone industry to contribute to the agritech startup ecosystem

November 19, 2020

The sector’s contribution to the national economy was documented to be 15% in 2017.

Drone photography is technically superior to satellite photography and will be of greater help to farmers.

There is demand for drone technology in non-military domains including infrastructure, mining and renewable energy.

Data bank updating and assistance with speeding up route approval can give impetus to domestic drone manufacturing.

Kota Harinarayana, a pioneer in the development of the light company aircraft in India and Chairman of the Board of Governors at IIT Varanasi, highlighted the role of the drone industry in the agritech startup ecosystem. Drones and allied technology, in his observation, captured far more accurate agricultural imagery as against traditional satellite imaging. With precision of this kind, farmers can be apprised of exact problematic scenarios and work towards mitigation if not prevention of such. As of this time, drone technology is being utilised sporadically to complement national endeavors in combating COVID-19. With policy support, there is greater scope to increase the industry contribution to the nation’s GDP from the 2018 share of 15%. 

India is currently the 5th largest importer of drones, with the potential to become a USD$885 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) market. Experts at Ernst & Young point to greater utilisation of drone technology in domains including infrastructure, mining as well as power and renewable energy. These possibilities outline the scope of demand outside the military framework and give further impetus to strengthen domestic manufacturing capabilities. Fiscal incentives and regulations are to be regulated in order to aid the ‘Make in India’ programme amply support the industry. Experts also point to the efficacy of data bank updates to help with the permissions process and updating of approved routes for the piloting of drones. 

Private sector interest in drone technology has seen an upsurge in recent years. Tata Steel, Zomato and Amazon are among the leading entities working on deploying drones for purposes ranging from surveillance to delivery. Other entities including GAIL and Hindustan Petroleum make use of positioning systems led by drone technology. With optimal support from the ‘Make in India’ initiative and demand from multiple sectors within the economy, India can strengthen her capabilities as a manufacturer of drone technology.