India approves 477 pesticides for drone usage; Kisan drones to take off

To fast track agri-drone adoption, the union agriculture ministry has granted interim approval to 477 pesticides for drone usage, said the Drone Federation of India (DFI). Before the approval, each pesticide had to be approved by the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CIB&RC) which could take about 18-24 months.

These 477 registered pesticides include insecticides, fungicides, and plant growth regulators (PGRs), for commercial use through drones for two years. “The union agriculture ministry and the CIB&RC have granted this interim approval,” said DFI in its statement.

Further, the federation said that the pesticide companies already registered with the CIB&RC who wish to use registered chemical pesticides using drones can intimate the board’s secretariat with pesticide dosage, crop details, data generation action plan, and other pre-requisite information.

“In case pesticide companies would like to continue using drones for spraying pesticides after two years, they will be required to generate essential data during the interim period and get it validated from CIB&RC,” the statement added.

However, the drone operators will have to adhere to the agriculture ministry’s Standard operating procedure (SOP) for using drones to spray pesticides and nutrients.

“Drones are taking over agricultural farms with advanced applications such as spraying chemical pesticides and nutrients, surveying farmlands, and monitoring soil and crop health. The use of drones for agriculture spraying reduces the contact of humans with fertilisers, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals,” said DFI president Smit Shah.

Hailing the initiative as a step towards reaching the vision of “one village one drone” in the next three years, Shah said, “After the liberalisation of the drone policy and providing government subsidy for the purchase of drones for agricultural activities, the decision to give interim approval to the knapsack registered pesticides shall boost the utilisation of Kisan Drones.”

While addressing a webinar on ‘Smart Agriculture in February this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, “Artificial intelligence is going to completely change the trade related to agriculture and farming in the 21st century. The greater use of Kisan drones in agriculture is part of this change. Drone technology will be available on a scale only when we promote agri start-ups.” 

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