Where does India stand in developing drone technology amid the global race

Except for those required by the military or for research and development, India banned the import of drones in February this year. The government wants to create a domestic industry capable of designing, engineering and manufacturing drones and their components.

According to the latest EY – FICCI report titled “Making India the Drone Hub of the World”, the drone and component industry can significantly increase India’s manufacturing potential to approximately US$ 23 billion by 2030.

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To make India the global hub for drones by 2030 and ensure the most innovative and competitive manufacturing capabilities, robust action plans are also needed to boost manufacturing, attract investment and facilitate exports.

What are drones?

The term “drone” refers to unmanned aerial vehicles (UA) that were originally designed for use in the space and military sectors. Now they are widely used due to their increased efficiency and safety.

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The level of drone autonomy can range from remote piloting, where a human is in charge of its movements, to advanced, relying on a system of sensors and LIDAR detectors to determine its movement.

Which sectors use drone technology?

The defense sector can use drones as a symmetrical weapon against terrorist attacks. It can be integrated into the national airspace system for combat and communication in remote areas along with anti-drone solutions.

A project involving the Telangana government and the use of drone technology to deliver vaccines to remote areas has received approval from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

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Drones can be used to spread micronutrients in the agricultural industry. The technology can also be used to conduct surveys to determine farmers’ difficulties.

Within less than a year of its introduction by the Indian government, the drone technology used in the SVAMITVA program has helped more than half a million villagers obtain their property maps by mapping Abadi areas.

In addition, it helps in real-time monitoring of assets and transmission lines, theft prevention, visual inspection and maintenance, construction planning and management, and can also be used to tackle poaching, forest and wildlife monitoring, pollution assessment and gathering evidence.

How does India regulate the use of drone technology?

Removing several approvals and clearances, the Ministry notified drone regulations in 2021 to make India a hub for drone research and development. A remote pilot license is now not required for non-commercial use of micro and nano drones, and no permit is required to operate drones in green areas.

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Drones can be used as unmanned flying taxis with a payload of up to 500 kilograms. In addition, foreign ownership is also allowed for companies that operate drones.

The government has approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) program with an allocation of Rs 120 crore for drones and their components over three fiscal years. The strategic, tactical and operational applications of this technology are discussed in the Drone Industry Outline and its components.

Why do we need strict rules?

Recently, for the first time, drones were used to drop explosives, causing blasts in the technical area of ​​the air force station in Jammu. Pakistan-based outfits have frequently used drones to smuggle arms, ammunition and drugs into Indian territory in the past two years.

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There were 167 drone sightings along the border with Pakistan in 2019, and 77 such sightings in 2020, government records show.

It is impossible to rule out the possibility of a drone attack, even in the world’s safest cities, given the rapid spread of drone technology and the exponential expansion of the global market in recent years. In conflict zones where non-state actors are active and have easy access to technology, drones become a security risk.

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