India’s agriculture soars with drone revolution

Backed by government initiatives like the Production-linked Incentive (PLI) program, India aims to emerge as a global drone manufacturing hub by 2030. Agriculture drones, a key segment of this industry, promise to transform farming practices, offering real-time insights into soil health, crop conditions, and water management. By optimizing resource allocation and enabling targeted interventions, drones not only enhance yield but also mitigate environmental impact. Early pest and disease detection further reduces reliance on harmful chemicals, fostering sustainable agriculture.

The Indian agriculture drone market is set to skyrocket, with projections indicating a quadruple expansion over the next five years. With applications ranging from soil analysis to livestock monitoring, drones are becoming indispensable tools for modern farmers. Government schemes like ‘Drone Didi’ and subsidies for nano soil nutrient spraying underscore the commitment to harnessing drone technology for agricultural prosperity. As drones take flight, they pave the way for a greener, more bountiful future for Indian agriculture.


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The India’s agricultural sector, comprising approximately 18% of India’s Gross Value Added (GVA) in fiscal year 2024, serves as the foundation for the nation’s economy. Despite grappling with challenges arising from the global health crisis and fluctuating climate conditions, the sector has showcased remarkable resilience and determination, playing a crucial role in India’s economic resurgence and progress.

Drones have been considered to be part of the Industry 4.0 ecosystem in India, and are expected to boost the country’s GDP by 1-1.5% and add over 5 lakh jobs in the coming years. The Indian government has been actively fostering the manufacturing of drones and drone components through a range of policies and initiatives, including the Production-linked Incentive (PLI) program. This strategic endeavour aims to transform India into a worldwide hub for drones by the year 2030.

Drones hold immense potential to revolutionize Indian agriculture, fostering sustainability, profitability, and environmental stewardship. By providing real-time data on soil health, crop conditions, and water usage, drones enable precise resource management, reducing input costs and environmental impact. Targeted interventions based on aerial imagery enhance yield potential while minimizing waste, making agriculture more financially lucrative. Additionally, drones facilitate early detection of pests and diseases, enabling timely intervention and reducing reliance on chemical pesticides. This holistic approach promotes sustainable farming practices, ensuring long-term viability for Indian agriculture while safeguarding the environment and maximizing economic returns.

According to the industry estimates, currently over 3,000 drones are being utilised in the Indian agriculture sector, which is expected to rise over 7,000 by FY25. This would further support crop productivity through optimum use of water, soil nutrients and crop protection formulations. Backed by various policies by the government to support technologies for farmers, drone manufacturers foresee an exponential rise in demand for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in the upcoming years.

India’s agriculture drone market

The drone manufacturing industry in India is projected to grow from Rs 60 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 900 crore by 2024-25. With regard to the Agriculture drones market, India is expected to experience a quadruple expansion during the period, according to Bluewave Consulting.

According to Frost and Sullivan, drone adoption in India’s agriculture sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of 38.5% and reach US$ 121.43 million by 2030, accounting for 2% of all expenditures on agricultural machinery. Gradually becoming an integral part of the farming process, drones offer solutions for precision agriculture, crop monitoring and input management. Here are some of the most promising drone applications in agriculture:

  • Soil and field analysis: Drones with remote sensing technology use electromagnetic spectrum cameras to gather ground data, distinguishing elements by their reflected wavelengths. This enables drones monitor aspects like insect damage, pest related color changes, vegetation etc.
  • Seed Planting: Drones equipped with specialized containers featuring controlled dispersal mechanisms can efficiently sow seeds, ensuring precise release from the air to the ground. Moreover, these drone systems have the capability to shoot seed pods, along with vital plant nutrients, directly into well-prepared soil, thus significantly reducing planting time.
  • Crop spraying: Drones play a crucial role in safeguarding crop health by efficiently applying pesticides and herbicides. Equipped with reservoirs holding these substances, they utilize advanced technology like TOF lasers, ultrasonic echoes, and GNSS signals to precisely adjust their speed and altitude, ensuring accurate spraying across various terrains.
  • Crop Monitoring: Drones swiftly capture large farm areas, aiding farmers in health assessment, issue identification and data-driven decisions on fertilization, pest control and irrigation. Moreover, advanced sensor-equipped drones provide precise soil information, optimizing input use and reducing waste.
  • Livestock Monitoring: Livestock technology, like RFID tags and remote sensors, automates continuous monitoring by collecting physiological or behavioral data and alerting about any irregularities. Compared to manual methods, it provides more detailed information. Drones equipped with RFID tags can precisely locate individual animals, simplifying supervision for farmers and reducing the reliance on specialized personnel, resulting in cost savings.

The evolving agriculture drones market

The Government of India is consistently supporting the agricultural industry. The country witnessed total food grains production of 329.7 million tonnes for FY23, marking a rise of 14.1 million tonnes compared to the previous year.

For the same, an amount of Rs 6,405.55 crore has been allocated for agricultural mechanisation during the period from 2014-15 to December 2023. From the funds of Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM), an amount of Rs 141.41 crores have been released towards Kisan drone promotion which includes purchase of 317 drones for their demonstration in 79,070 hectares of land and supply of 527 drones to the farmers on subsidy.

The government sanctioned a central sector scheme, known as ‘Drone Didi’, allocating 15,000 drones to women self-help groups (SHGs) in specified clusters, last year. The scheme, spanning from 2024-25 to 2025-26, has a budget of Rs. 1,261 crore. The Centre will offer 80% assistance, capped at Rs. 8 lakh per SHG, to cover the drones’ costs and accessories.

To encourage the adoption of nano urea and di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), prominent fertilizer cooperative IFFCO announced in July 2023 its plan to procure 2500 drones for spraying nano soil nutrients. Additionally, the cooperative is training 5000 rural entrepreneurs for this purpose. Employing drones ensures the optimal utilization of soil nutrients.

In April 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture unveiled standard operating procedures (SOP) for pesticide application using drones across 10 crops, including rice, wheat, cotton, and maize.

Through the Agricultural Mechanisation Sub-Mission, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, state agriculture universities, along with other state and central government agricultural institutes and undertakings involved in agricultural activities, receive full financial assistance for drone acquisition. This assistance covers up to Rs. 10 lakh per drone, alongside contingent expenses for demonstrating drone operations in farmers’ fields. Moreover, Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) are provided a grant-in-aid equivalent to 75% of the drone purchase cost for conducting demonstrations in farmers’ fields.

The trajectory of India’s agricultural sector is poised for remarkable growth, fueled by the integration of drone technology. With the government’s steadfast support and strategic initiatives, such as the ‘drone didi’ scheme and subsidies for farmers, the agriculture drone market is set to burgeon. These drones offer multifaceted solutions, from precision farming to livestock monitoring, revolutionizing agricultural production and ensuring sustainable practices. As India harnesses the potential of drones, it paves the way for enhanced productivity, efficiency, and resilience in agriculture, heralding a promising future for the nation’s economy and farmers alike.

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