Use of Drones for Agriculture : Advantages and Challenges : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-3: Technology missions; e-technology in the aid of farmers; Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

Key Phrases: Drone festival, Kisan Drones, Custom Hiring Centres, Aerial Spraying vs Manual spraying.


  • The Prime Minister of India said during the launch of the drone festival earlier this year that he dreams of watching drones on every farm.
  • Thus, it becomes important to delve deep into the challenges and advantages of using drones for agriculture.


  • PM’s dream may look like an ambitious target, but it points to the importance the Indian government has given to the role of drones in agriculture.
  • Budget 2022-23 mentioned ramping up the use of drone-based technologies in agriculture. More importantly, “Kisan drones” will be used in assessing crops.

High costs

  • Adopting drones in Indian agriculture has its own pros and cons. A drone costs anywhere between ₹10 lakh and ₹12 lakh. An ordinary farmer will not be able to afford it.
  • However, drones can be made available through a farm-as-a-service platform.
  • Probably, economies of scale can help realize this dream.

India’s potential

  • A recent study forecasts the Indian agriculture drones market to witness a four-fold increase by 2028, with a projected compound annual growth rate of over 25 per cent during 2022-2028.

Initiatives to promote its inclusion

  • The Indian arm of the Swiss-based firm launched a drone yatra to cover 10,000 km across 13 States from Mancher near Pune in Maharashtra.
  • Experts are of the opinion that drones help the Indian agriculture sector make a huge leap.
  • A few firms such as Unnati, an agri-tech start-up platform, have launched drone services. The firm plans to spray 20,000 acres of land by the end of 2022 and increase drones’ spray capacity by 4 times next year.
  • The Indian Government is popularizing the use of drones by offering various financial assistance to purchase drones for demonstrations.
  • Drone purchases by custom hiring centers (CHCs) are given 40 percent assistance. The Center is providing ₹6,000 per hectare as a contingency fund to farmers to hire drones from CHCs.

Gains over manual spraying

  • With the cost of manual spraying of pesticides increasing, drone spraying is seen as an effective alternative.
  • A farmer in Mancher costs ₹500 an acre for manual spraying. It takes at least four hours to spray an acre and the costs are only going up.
  • The cost of spraying insecticide using drones costs less and a drone can spray the pesticide on one acre in four minutes.
  • Unnati says its drones can cover an acre in under 8 minutes.

Case Study

  • Bengaluru-based General Aeronautics has come up with “Krishak” brand drones that weigh 49 kg.
  • The drones have been tested on 10,000 acres in 14 States across 45 crops.
  • It is providing its drones on a business-to-business basis to corporates such as Syngenta and Bayer CropScience.
  • A drone manufactured by General Aeronautics, being deployed by Syngenta India at its demonstration plot at Mancher, near Pune, in Maharashtra.

Battery problems

  • A normal drone can cover six acres with a single battery charge in 25 minutes.
  • The cost of batteries used in drones could be discouraging. The number of flights for spray could be high. It is 12-15 flights with the current concentration of chemicals.
  • This leads to the major problem of higher battery utilization and subsequent draining of its efficiency and resulting in higher costs in drone application compared to manual spraying.
  • In the case of GA, each battery could last 600 cycles and efforts are on to improve it to 6,000 cycles. But experts concede that battery life and replacement are currently a concern.

Issues with aerial spraying

  • Drones help save 95 per cent of the water used for spraying pesticides or insecticides. It is enough if 150-200 ml of pesticide or insecticide is mixed in 8 liters of water.
  • This is since different chemicals have now come up and they need less water for dilution, especially with the emergence of drones.
  • Experts say since landholdings are small in India, it would be easy to monitor the functioning of drones, be it spraying fertilizers, insecticides or pesticides.
  • But the small size could turn out to be a problem. There are some problems with aerial spraying -
    • It could contaminate water bodies and can affect small water streams.
    • Animals could become victims.
    • Appropriate height, speed, wind and ground tactics are needed in view of safety and security.
  • Standard operating procedure issued by the Center covers this issue. It is possible to ensure safe spraying through geo-fencing and GPS for drones.


  • This is an issue that needs to be thoroughly studied and experimented with.
  • One solution could be to produce an “ultra-low volume pesticide or fungicide” that can be adjusted for each crop and disease.
  • Transportation of drones by rail is difficult in view of the drone’s width, even without fans. It has to be transported by bus or car.
  • Agribot, probably India’s first approved agricultural drone, can reportedly be carried in the carrier of a bicycle.
  • It is better to transport drones by road in India since it will help reach the destination better.

Not all crops covered

  • The pesticide or fungicide can be sprayed on the leaves to the required extent. A special nozzle is used for spraying.
  • Most of the pests and insects reside below the leaves. When they turn upside down due to the air pressure of the fans, these pests and insects are exposed to the spray. This is very advantageous compared to manual spraying.
  • But drones cannot be used for all crops e.g. they cannot be used for spraying on grapes whose leaves form a canopy making spraying difficult.
  • Farmers in Maharashtra mount the insecticide or pesticide spray on a tractor and the chemicals are sprayed from the bottom.

Other positives

  • The Center is going all out to promote the domestic drone industry. Imports of drones are prohibited but components can be imported. This will help the domestic industry and boost investment.
  • Drone technology is no longer a pipe dream, especially for the agriculture sector.

Efforts from state governments

  • Andhra Pradesh has plans to launch 10,000 drones in phases through its Rythu Bharosa Kendra.
  • Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are also working with manufacturers, farmers’ organizations and state agriculture universities to roll out drones this year.

Way Forward

  • If some of the problematic issues are addressed, drones in agriculture could become a model like Ola or Uber cab services.
  • From district headquarters, young trained drone pilots could serve farmers through apps.
  • Thus, the use of drones in agriculture may change the experience of farmers in a great way. It helps in enhancing efficiency apart from availing some comforts to the farmers.

Source: The Hindu BL

Mains Question;

Q. The use of drones in agriculture may change the experience of farmers in a great way. What are the challenges and advantages faced in realizing its inclusion in the agriculture sector? [250 Words].