Drones in Agriculture: Statement of Principles (SOP)
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar released a statement of policy for the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in the farm sector on Tuesday (December 21).
Precision farming, mapping, and spraying are among the uses of agricultural drones. Crop-scouting and yield mapping can be used for a variety of purposes, including optimizing seed, water, and fertilizer inputs, mitigating quickly against threats such as weeds, fungi, and pests, and saving time. Earlier, the Union Agriculture Minister noted that drones were used to combat locust attacks in various parts of the country.
According to an official statement, the adoption of drone technology in the agricultural sector will benefit farmers. In addition, he reiterated the government’s goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. In particular, he highlighted the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) and Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) as vehicles that will greatly benefit small farmers.
Tomar said in his statement that the government is promoting the use of new technologies to improve productivity and efficiency in agriculture.
As stated in the statement, “the SOP for drone regulation for pesticide application covers important aspects such as statutory provisions, flying permissions, area distance restrictions, weight classification, restrictions for overcrowded areas, drone registration, safety insurance, piloting certification, operation plan, flight zones, weather conditions, SOPs for pre, post, and during operation, and emergency handling plan.”
The agriculture ministry has been working on developing a standard operating procedure for drone use in agriculture for a while. The draft SoP was released in July 2022, and suggestions from the public were sought.
The use of drones in agriculture has become necessary due to their benefits and widespread adoption in many countries, but a standard operating procedure must be in place to ensure their safety.
The government has already notified Drone Rules 2021 that make it easy to own and operate drones by people and companies. While the criteria for permission to use drones have been made simpler, the fees have been brought down to nominal levels.
Modern drones have features such as multispectral image cameras that can be used to monitor stress, growth, and yield of crops. Drones with necessary accessories can also be used to spray herbicides, fertilizers, and water.
As a result, farmers face many problems including lack of labor, high cost of labor, health effects of chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) while applying them in the field, bites by animals or insects, etc. The statement said that the use of drones in agriculture may also give ample opportunities for rural employment.