What Drones Can Do For India, and What India can do for World Drones

India is all set for the drone revolution and the present scenario illustrates the picture very clearly. Last year, the country came up with its drone policy 1.0 and is soon coming up with 2.0 to make the drone operations easier. A few days back, the government of Andhra Pradesh, a southern Indian state, announced at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2019 that it will start testing the policy frameworks developed in the newly released ‘Advanced Drone Operators Toolkit’ to enable state-wide drone delivery operations.

With this announcement, Andhra Pradesh will become the first Indian state to take such an advanced step pertaining to drone technology.  The move exudes optimism to leverage the insights from the toolkit to implement a drone delivery program that will bring key medical supplies to communities across the State.

Addressing the World Economic Forum at Davos, Lokesh Nara, the state’s Minister for Information Technology and Rural Development said, “Andhra Pradesh is proud to be the first government partner to implement the Advanced Drone Operations Toolkit. We look forward to leveraging the insights from the toolkit to implement a drone delivery program that will bring key medical supplies to communities across our state”

The step by Andhra Government could prove to be a great step for medicine delivery in remote areas. Lifesaving medicine can be delivered to people in need. Items like antidotes for venom can be sent to individuals stuck in hard to reach places. App-based healthcare can be provided to trekkers, tribals or people generally residing or venturing out in the wild wherein precise self-administered injections, first aid kits, meds etc. can be provided.

How drone tech can help India

By 2021, the UAV market in India is expected to be around $885.7 million, while the global market is estimated to touch $21.47 billion. Sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, mining, law enforcement and entertainment, among others, have witnessed a surge in the adoption of UAVs.

The Smart Cities Mission launched by the government of India involves area-based retrofitting and renewal of cities to make them more liveable, and has sought the widespread engagement of 4th generation technologies such as drones, Internet of Things and Blockchain. This is essentially to help solve problems such as traffic, sanitation and security that have riddled urban India for decades.

For instance, the government of Rajasthan procured batches of quadcopter to bolster its existing security detail. The incumbent set up involved CCTV cameras, wearable devices and traditional equipment to identify crime. The integration of drones would help the police tackle the law and order situation more efficiently, given the agility of drone technology.

In the field of agriculture, issues ailing Indian farmers include weak supply chain, market information and price realisation. The government’s objective of doubling farmer income by 2022 has seen a parallel embracement of drone technology to realise this goal.

Andhra Pradesh, one of the early adopters of technology (and the torch bearer of India’s rise as an IT hub), engaged drones to enhance output. A recent project in Gogulampadu, Krishna district, involved the use of drones to count the number of germinated corn seedlings across the farms with the basic purpose of increasing overall productivity of the cluster. With an accuracy of over 90 per cent, the sample tests were a success, and a testament to the benefits of UAV technology in India.

Precision farming techniques, including geographic information system (GIS) and drones, have increased the global supply of rice, wheat and maize by 79-96 per cent. Without these methods, an additional 446 million hectares would have been required for crop production.

According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, titled ‘India’s technology opportunity: Transforming work, empowering people’, Tamil Nadu ran a precision farming project from 2004-2007.  Using GIS-based soil and field-mapping techniques, 400 hectares were planted with variants of over 23 crops. The yields were estimated to be 60-80 per cent higher than conventional techniques.

Coupled with machine learning algorithms, large quantities of data can be digested and comprehended in quick time.

New Developments, New Opportunities

The Andhra Pradesh Government is looking to use drones in the medical sector for medical-based delivery. This will be introduced post implementation of Drone Regulation 2.0 in India, in which policy implementation for use of drones in logistics will be discussed. Saksham Bhutani, Chief Business Officer of Indshine says that “Drone companies will directly enjoy the benefit if this will be in place. Market and scope in Drone Utilities Traffic Management (UTM), Drone Risk Management and Drone Ports will increase steeply”.

Taking examples from the real-world success of drone delivery projects in Africa and Europe, Andhra Pradesh too is planning to come up with the policy framework. It will not just take the development of state ahead but will also bring in new drone revolution in the country. It will set an example to other states as well to take the technology seriously to speed up the development. Like for example Maharashtra, which can use drone technology in agriculture for monitoring drought-affected areas and can save huge loss and lives.

The step will not just help the country in technological advancement but will also open new avenues for drone companies in India. On the technological front, this step by the Andhra government will set up proof concept to test how the technology can be used for medical supplies. It will also create new job opportunities in the state.

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