Tomar releases SOPs for use of drones in farm sector

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New Delhi: Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Tuesday released standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the use of drones in the farm sector, including for spraying pesticides as well as other soil and crop nutrients.

The adoption of drone technology is the need of the times and will benefit farmers, he said in an official statement.

Releasing the SOPs for drone application in agriculture, Tomar said the government’s policies since 2014 are aimed at doubling farmers’ income by 2022.

Formation of Farmer Producer Organisation (FPOs) and the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) will bring about a revolution in the lives of small farmers, he noted.

Tomar further said drones were used for the first time in warding off locust attacks in various states of the country.

He said the government is making continuous efforts to infuse new technologies in agriculture so as to provide sustainable solutions in context of enhancing the productivity as well as efficiency of the agriculture sector.

“The SOP for drone regulation for pesticide application covers important aspects like statutory provisions, flying permissions, area distance restrictions, weight classification, overcrowded areas restriction, drone registration, safety insurance, piloting certification, operation plan, air flight zones, weather conditions, SOPs for pre, post and during operation, emergency handling plan,” the statement said.

The ministry in consultation with all the stakeholders of this sector, has brought out the SOPs for use of drones in pesticide and nutrient application that provide concise instructions for effective and safe operations of drones.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, have great potential to revolutionise Indian agriculture and ensure the country’s food security.

The national drone policy has been notified and the Drone Rules 2021 have been made significantly easier for people and companies to now own and operate drones. The requisite fees for permissions have also been reduced to nominal levels.

Drones are well-equipped with many features like multi-spectral and photo cameras and can be used in many areas of agriculture such as monitoring crop stress, plant growth, predict yields and deliver props like herbicides, fertiliser and water.

The equipment can be used for assessing the health of any vegetation or crop, field areas inflicted by weeds, infections and pests and based on this assessment, the exact amount of chemicals needed to fight these infestations can be applied, thereby optimising the overall cost for the farmer.

The ministry highlighted that drone planting systems have also been developed by many startups which allow drones to shoot pods, their seeds and spray vital nutrients into the soil.

“Thus, this technology increases consistency and efficiency of crop management, besides reducing the cost,” the statement said.

The ministry also pointed out that farmers face many problems like unavailability or high cost of labour, health problems by coming in contact with chemicals (fertilisers, pesticides, etc) while applying them in the field, and bite by insects or animals.

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