India Drone Blitz Gathers Pace

Image credit: iStockphoto/lakshmiprasad S

The use of drones in Indian agriculture has received a boost with a new partnership between a tertiary institution and two startups.

The Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee has joined with Chennai drone startup Garuda Aerospace and agribusiness startup AGROB to address the growing demand for indigenous drone pilots jointly.

The three organizations have created a partnership to develop software, robotics, and pilot training for drones that can be used in Indian agriculture.

Garuda will design, build and customize the drones, while AGROB will develop practical use cases such as agricultural surveys, mapping, reconnaissance, AI-based monitoring, and surveillance.

Professor Dharmendra Singh, a coordinator at IIT Roorkee, said the goal was to develop a “drone eco-system” through industry partnerships and provide value-added research inputs.

“In co-operation, we will develop futuristic AI drones, educate farmers and AgriTech service providers, and make them future-ready,” Professor Singh said.

Garuda Aerospace recently partnered with food tech unicorn Swiggy for food delivery trials in two Indian cities.

The increased use of agricultural drones is a pet project of Indian Prime Minister Modi, who virtually launched 100 Made in India agricultural drones across the country in February, which carried out farm operations in unique simultaneous flights.

The Prime Minister labeled it a “milestone” for Indian agriculture.

The drone blitz is the largest collective agricultural drone exercise in the country. The prime minister said new technologies would bring a “world of opportunities for farmers and youth.”

The Government has also provided financial incentives for farmers to use drones, offering approved organizations grants of up to 75% of the cost of an agriculture drone.

However, one issue is the cost of drones, as Indian-made drones are currently around 25% more expensive than imported ones. This creates barriers for the local industry and stifles adoption.

Image credit: iStockphoto/lakshmiprasad S