Fostering flight: India’s plan for indigenous drone manufacturing

The government projects that the whole revenue generated by the drone manufacturing industry will increase to Rs 900 crores by the end of the financial year 2024.

Fostering flight: India’s plan for indigenous drone manufacturing

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, are witnessing development in India that is comparable to that of electric vehicles and other emerging sectors. There is no limit to the possibility of the uses that may be found for drones, which include delivering food, increasing workplace productivity, increasing agricultural yields, and improving the effectiveness of the defence forces. The Government aims to make India a Global Drone Hub by the year 2030, which will cause the domestic drone industry to see explosive growth.

In the fiscal year 2020, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market in India was valued at $830 million, and it is anticipated that it will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.5% during the period 2021–2026, despite the impacts of the worldwide pandemic on several sectors of the economy.

The government projects that the whole revenue generated by the drone manufacturing industry will increase to Rs 900 crores by the end of the financial year 2024.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) issued a brand new collection of drone laws and regulations in June 2021. These laws and regulations apply to everyone who flies an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in India.  Suppose an operator does not qualify for an exemption under the new regulations, they will be required to submit an application for and be issued a one-of-a-kind identification number in order to fly a UAV. UAV operators will need to submit details on the Digital Sky platform, a programme headed by MoCA to control UAV operations and traffic in India. In order to get this identification number, UAV operators would be required to comply with this requirement. Additionally, the governments of a few Indian states have developed their own one-of-a-kind UAV policies in an effort to entice investments in this sector.

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened an event called “Drone Mahotsav” to promote the drone industry. During his speech, he highlighted the significance of drone technology in a variety of fields, including agriculture, tourism, disaster management, and the military.

The Indian drone sector is expected to produce total revenue of Rs. 15,000 crores by the year 2026, according to a prediction made by the Minister of Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Says Smit Shah, the president of the Drone Federation of India, the market for drones in India is expected to reach Rs 50, 000 crores during the next five years and Rs 30,000 crores within the next three.

The number three customer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with military capability is India. At the moment, India gets certain components from China, the United States of America, and Europe. India plans to manufacture its own drones and take full control of the supply chain for the technology. India is also expected to manufacture its own silicon chips, but this is a long-term plan.

Between August 2021 and February 2022, the number of drone-based enterprises in India increased by 34.4%. The primary contributor to this growth was the introduction of the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) plan in August 2021. The PLI programme prohibits the importing of drones as well as allots Rs. 120 crores over the course of three years for the development of drones. It was projected that this strategy would result in a doubling of the overall sales of all Indian drone manufacturers.

Because there is currently some trepidation regarding Chinese drones, India may see a shift in the demand for Chinese drones. The fact that information goes back to China, which is where the servers are, poses a threat to the confidentiality of the data. As a direct consequence of this, drones manufactured in India are in high demand all over the world.

In India, there are over 200 drone startup companies, and the number is expanding. Garuda Aerospace is the largest drone production facility in India and plans to build 1 Lakh UAVs next two years. And the country will become a hotspot for drone technology and will need at least one million drone pilots by the end of next year.

Currently, drones perform different tasks in India. The police use them to monitor traffic, while border security personnel use them to look for smugglers and traffickers. They are also becoming increasingly prevalent in the agricultural sector, where they are used to monitor crop health and apply fertiliser and pesticides.

Although India has declared a goal of becoming a hub for drones by 2030, one must be careful because the country currently needs an ecosystem and technological initiatives. The sector requires a competent regulator who can oversee safety and assist in the development of a drone air traffic control system. This will become increasingly critical as aircraft size increases. India also lacks the network of companies required to manufacture all of the drone’s components. Currently, many components, including batteries, motors, and flight controls, are imported. However, the Government is optimistic that an incentive programme will assist domestic enterprises to grow.

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First published on: 21-12-2022 at 16:51 IST