Drone Making in India

The government has announced easing of rules for registration and operation of drones in the country, as also the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme worth 120 crore to boost indigenous manufacturing of drones

May 5, 2022 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By PIB, DhakshaSystems / Twitter, ideaForge, MP_MyGov / Twitter, IoTechWorld / Twitter, Raphe_mPhibr / Twitter, DJI
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army

 

A MEGA DRONE SHOW INVOLVING 1000 INDIGENOUSLY BUILT DRONES DURING THE 'BEATING RETREAT' CEREMONY, IN NEW DELHI ON JANUARY 29, 2022

At the Beating of the Retreat ceremony on January 29 this year, 1,000 drones flown by BotLab Dynamics had put up a glittering show with the drone formations taking different shapes, which enthralled the onlookers. Following this, on February 10, the government halted the import of drones in order to give a fillip to the indigenous drone industry and make India the hub of the global drone industry by 2030. Though import of components is still allowed, import of a drone for any other purpose now requires government permission. Earlier the government had announced the easing of rules for registration and operation of drones in the country, as also the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme worth 120 crore to boost indigenous manufacturing of drones.

The government expects the drone manufacturing industry to invest over 5,000 crore over the next three years and generate 10,000 direct jobs. By FY 2024, it is estimated that the turnover of the drone manufacturing industry will grow to 900 crore from the present 60 crore. The drone services industry is expected to grow to over 30,000 crore in next three years and generate over five lakh jobs, according to the government.

By FY 2024, it is estimated that the turnover of the drone manufacturing industry will grow to 900 crore from the present 60 crore. The drone services industry is expected to grow to over 30,000 crore in next three years and generate over five lakh jobs, according to the government.

On April 20, 2022, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) released the first provisional list of 14 beneficiaries under the PLI Scheme for drone and drone components. These include five drone manufacturers (Dhaksha Unmanned Systems Chennai, Ideaforge Technology - Mumbai, IoTechWorld Avigation Gurugram, Omnipresent Robot Technologies - Gurguram, and Raphe Mphibr Noida) and nine drone component manufacturers (Absolute Composites Bengaluru, Adani-Elbit Advanced Systems India - Hyderabad, Adroitec Information Systems - New Delhi, Alpha Design Technologies Bengaluru, Inventgrid India Sambalpur, Paras Aerospace Bengaluru, SASMOS HET Technologies - Bangalore, ZMotion Autonomous Systems Bangalore, and Zuppa Geo Navigation Technologies Chennai).

(LEFT TO RIGHT) DHAKSHA UNMANNED SYSTEM; IDEAFORGE'S SWITCH UAV
(LEFT TO RIGHT) OMNIPRESENT ROBOT TECH. DRONE; MOCA JOINT SECRETARY WITH TEAM IOTECH AT THEIR FACTORY IN GURGAON
UAV - mR-20 for Indian Army by Raphe mPhibr

The eligibility criteria for the PLI scheme for drones and drone components includes an annual sales turnover of 2 crore for drone companies and 50 lacs for drone components manufacturers and value addition of over 40 per cent of sales turnover. The final list of PLI beneficiaries is expected to be released by June 30, 2022 after detailed scrutiny of their financial results and other specified documents.

As of 2020, China's SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd., was the worlds' largest drone maker manufacturing commercial drone andaccounting for around 70 per cent of the world's consumer drone market

Under the PLI scheme, a total incentive of 120 crore is spread over three financial years which is nearly double the combined turnover of all domestic drone manufacturers in FY 2020-21. The PLI rate is 20 per cent of the value addition which is one of the highest among other PLI schemes.

As of 2020, China's SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd, was the worlds' largest drone maker manufacturing commercial drone andaccounting for around 70 per cent of the world's consumer drone market. With manufacturing facilities throughout the world, the company's products have also been used by militaries and police forces, as well as terrorist groups.

DJI's Phantom 3

In January 2015, a Phantom 3 drone of DJI crashed into the south lawn of the White House in Washington DC. Also in 2015, a DJI Phantom 2 drone carrying radioactive material was landed on the roof of Japanese Prime Minister's residence in Tokyo. In 2016, the Islamic State used DJI drones as exploding devices in Iraq. On August 4, 2018, DJI Matrice 600 drones were used in the attempted assassination of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

DJI reportedly was manufacturing over 1000 drones on daily basis but its sales started going down after 2020. This was due to COVID-19 hitting the company and other global drone manufacturers coming up. Also, the US sanctioned eight Chinese companies including the DJI in December 2021, which has hit sales of the company, given that in 2019, 77 per cent of drones imported by the US were from the DJI.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessing Kisan Drone in action at 100 places across the country by Garuda Aerospace Pvt. Limited, through video conferencing, in New Delhi on February 19, 2022

Government plans to commence drone-related courses for skilling at select Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in all states of India. The Centre is also to promote the use of 'Kisan Drones' for crop assessment, digitisation of land records and spraying of insecticides.

In a country like India, drone usage has tremendous potential in areas like photography, agriculture, mining, telecom, insurance, oil and gas, construction, transport, disaster management, geo-spatial mapping, forest and wildlife, defence and law enforcement, to name a few. Interestingly, drones are available on hire for purposes like photography in say Gurugram in Haryana or other places, which can be booked on line. The Drone Airspace Map published by the government in 2021 has opened up nearly 90 per cent of the Indian airspace as a green zone upto an altitude of 400 feet.

UNION MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND FARMERS WELFARE, NARENDRA SINGH TOMAR, DURING THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PROMOTION OF KISAN DRONES IN NEW DELHI ON MAY 02, 2022

In September 2021, the Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had said that the Indian drone industry will have a total turnover of up to 15,000 crore by 2026. At that time, Indian drone manufacturing companies had a turnover of approximately 80 crore. The encouraging news is that the government plans to commence drone-related courses for skilling at select Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in all states of India. The Centre is also to promote the use of 'Kisan Drones' for crop assessment, digitisation of land records and spraying of insecticides.

With the above plans, there is every reason for India to become the drone manufacturing hub of the world as planned by 2030 provided the momentum is kept up by the Centre and the States.