A flight path with obstacles

India’s drone use policy makes the possibility of a red tape-free flight very slim
At Agroscope, the ‘Swiss centre of excellence for agricultural research’, in Nyon, Switzerland, agriculture scientists fly a drone to study nitrogen level in leaves, not for a farm as a whole, but for each individual plant. The drone takes a large number of images, which when fed into a computer model with data on soil condition, weather, time of the year and other information helps analyse which plants are deficient in nitrogen, enabling farmers to add corrective fertilizer only where necessary. Sensefly, a Swiss drone manufacturer, has customers around the world whose use of drones has resulted in higher yield (more than 10% in observed case studies) and significantly lower usage of fertilizers and herbicides. For a country with a population of over eight million, Switzerland has an enormous number of people interested in flying drones and developing drone-based applications. Simon Johnson, the Vice-President of the Drone Industry Association Switzerland, envisions the use of drones in public transport in the not too distant future, as well as setting up drone hubs — mini airports, where drones carrying people and cargo can congregate. The security and privacy risks of allowing drones to fly in an unregulated manner are high. It may be recalled that in August, a drone was used in an attack on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro during a public meeting. However, if India is to reach even the fraction of the $1 trillion potential that Mr. Prabhu sees, it needs to figure out a more balanced manner of regulation. The current rules are a start, but only in the sense that they free all drones from their previous illegality. The real impact of drones will be in the many applications they will be put to. Agriculture is just one such. They are likely to be the disaster prevention systems, rescue operation leaders, and even public transport providers in the not too distant future. Missing out on working on these applications early enough will likely have serious repercussions to India’s future competitiveness in the field. China’s drone economy — manufacturing and development — will be worth $9 billion in 2020, while the U.S’s commercial drone market is expected to be $2.05 billion by 2023 (Global Market Insights). For India to compete against these giants, it already has a lot of catching up to do. Filing a series of applications in multiple copies and waiting for various government departments to respond is not the best way to get started.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/a-flight-path-with-obstacles/article25106919.ece

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