The Indian Parliament in February had some interesting updates about the drone industry, be it about the number of drones deployed in India or the government initiatives to promote this niche sector. Although the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha combined offered only eight inquiries regarding drones, government departments had some interesting information to share. Here’s a summary of all drone-related questions asked in the Parliament with some follow-up questions from MediaNama.
Around 1,200 drones deployed in Delhi
Out of the 5,171 drones deployed by the government in 2022, as many as 1,202 drones were deployed in Delhi alone. This is a huge increase from 2021 when only 70 drones were deployed in the capital city. A similar increase in drone deployment was seen in Haryana where drones increased from 13 in 2021 to 895 drones in 2022.
What caused such a huge increase in drone deployment? We don’t know because the government did not state which sectors these drones were deployed in. The government also failed to answer the question of employment generation. It only mentioned that “a growth-oriented regulatory framework” with manufacturing incentives would help with employment generation and Atmanirbhar Bharat.
Here are the questions asked by Rajya Sabha member Dhairyasheel Sambhajirao Mane and seven others on February 2, 2023:
- whether the Government has data on the number of drone licences granted;
- if so, the details thereof including the number of drones and the sectors in which they are deployed, State/UT-wise during the years 2021 and 2022 and if not, the reasons therefor;
- whether the Government has organized any awareness drive to create awareness about the mechanism of obtaining certification, registration, remote pilot licenses and insurance for an unmanned aircraft system and if so, the details thereof;
- the details of opportunities envisaged under the scheme in terms of employment and to promote the cause of Atmanirbhar Bharat?
Follow-up questions from MediaNama:
- Why was there such a huge influx of drones in Haryana and Delhi in 2022?
- State-wise, which sectors have the registered drones been deployed in?
- What regulatory framework is the government working on to generate employment in the drone sector?
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No data on employment in the drone sector
Four days after the above questions, another Rajya Sabha member asked about jobs created in the drone industry. In reply, the Civil Aviation Ministry said that there is “no data on job creation” in the drone sector as the industry is “nascent at this stage.” However, under the Drone Rules 2021, the government has approved 44 drone training schools for providing drone training/skilling.
“Till date, these training schools have certified 2,521 drone pilots,” said the Ministry.
Rajya Sabha member Vandana Chavan asked the following questions:
- the number of jobs created in the drone industry so far;
- whether the high cost of homegrown drones as compared to international standards, is the reason for the low adoption and jobs in the sector; and
- whether Government is implementing any schemes for skilling of drone operators so as to make it affordable and accessible to all?
Follow-up questions from MediaNama:
- Has the government come up with projects/ schemes to generate employment in the drone sector?
- Do the training schools have placement mechanisms in place to employ the graduating students?
Unanswered questions about drones in agriculture
“The use of Kisan Drones has a potential to provide ample opportunities of employment to people in rural areas,” was the only response Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare had about the adoption rate of Kisan Drones.
What is Kisan Drone? Kisan Drone Yatra is an initiative by the Indian government to introduce drone technology in the agriculture sector for spraying of pesticides, digitisation of land records, crop assessment, etc.
Vandana Chavan also asked the following questions:
- the adoption rate of Kisan Drones in the country by farmers, so far;
- whether their usage will reduce the employment of farm labourers; and
- if so, the list of measures being taken to ensure their security?
However, the government worked around these questions, speaking largely about financial assistance to farmers for acquiring drones.
So here are MediaNama’s follow-up questions:
- Reiterating Chavan’s query, what is the adoption rate of Kisan Drones in India?
- How much money has been spent by the government on the Kisan Drones project?
- How do drones contribute to the agriculture sector?
- Is the government working on special training programmes to teach agricultural labourers how to use drones?
Only one National Aerospace Laboratory in India
On February 9, 2023, the Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Minister of State Dr Jitendra Singh said that there is only one CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (CSIR-NAL) in India. Based in Bengaluru, the constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) is the only publicly funded civilian aerospace R&D laboratory in India. In the last three years, the funds sanctioned, allocated and utilized by CSIR-NAL went from ₹ 237.84 crore to ₹ 236.26 crore to ₹ 283.75 crore.
When asked about drone-specific projects undertaken by the lab, the Ministry of Science & Technology talked about the medium class Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) multi-copter Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). “The developed multi-copter technology has been licensed to four MSMEs [Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises] for exploitation in agriculture and medical applications in the country,” said the Ministry in the Rajya Sabha.
The CSIR-NAL is also involved in a project titled “Development of Drone Related Technologies for Society-oriented Smart Sensing and Physical Interventional Applications.” While the department did not elaborate much on the details, the project received ₹ 54.106 lakh in funding for FY 2023-24 and will get another ₹ 35.106 lakh in FY 2024-25.
Singh made this statement in reply to Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut’s following questions:
- The details of the number of National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) across the country, State/UT-wise including Maharashtra;
- the details of the funds sanctioned, allocated and utilized by these laboratories during the last three years, State/UT-wise;
- whether Government plans to develop drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) by these laboratories, if so, the details thereof and if not, the reasons therefor;
- the funds which are likely to be sanctioned along with deadlines, the details thereof?
Over 6000 drones registered by the government
While answering Lok Sabha questions on drone components, the Civil Aviation Ministry said that by February 9, 2023, as many as 6,443 drones were registered with a Unique Identification Number. 11 manufacturers have been issued with a Type Certificate, said the department.
Regarding the import of drone parts, the government talked about the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme with a total incentive of ₹ 120 crore from FY 2021-22 to FY 2023-24 to encourage the manufacturing of drones and drone components. It claimed that by notifying the liberalised Drone Rules, PLI Scheme and Drone import policy, the annual sales turnover of the industry will likely go from approximately ₹ 60 crore in 2020-21 to approximately ₹ 900 crore by 2024-25.
The Ministry’s statement was in response to the following questions asked by MP Dr. Amar Singh:
- whether it is a fact that the country lacks the network of companies required to manufacture all of the components of the drone and if so, the details thereof; and
- whether the Government proposes to take any corrective steps keeping in mind that as of today, many components, including batteries, motors, and flight controls are being imported and if so, the details thereof?
56 applications for financial assistance under the PLI for drones
By February 6, 2023, the Civil Aviation Ministry had received 56 applications for financial assistance under the PLI for drones and drone components. However, the applications were still at the examination stage at the time of answering the questions, said the Ministry at the Rajya Sabha.
This information was in response to the following questions asked by Rajya Sabha member Jugalsinh Lokhandwala:
- the number of drone companies having been provided financial assistance till date under the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme, along with the quantum of assistance thereon, the details thereof;
- whether Government has made any plan regarding the further expansion of the PLI Scheme; and
- whether Government is providing any special package or running any scheme for colleges and startups to promote research in the field of drone technology?
Drone sector to create revenue of ₹ 30 thousand crore by 2026
Speaking on the drone market, the Civil Aviation Ministry said that industry estimates expect drones to generate direct and indirect revenue of ₹ 30,000 crores in the next three years. This includes revenue via manufacturing, services, training, data processing and other related goods and services. However, the government said it has no plans to fully control the supply chain for drone manufacturing.
The Ministry’s statement was in response to the following questions asked by MP S. Jagathrakshakan:
- whether the Government is aware that the market for drones in the country is expected to reach ₹ 50,000 crores during the next five years and ₹ 30,000 crores within the next three years and if so, the details thereof; and
- the details of the initiatives proposed to be taken by the Government to manufacture own drones and take full control of the supply chain for the technology?
No Industrial Training Institutes in Telangana for skill development in the drone sector
Claiming significant growth in the drone sector in India, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship said it is running six short-term skilling courses in the drone sector, including “Drone Service Technician,” “Drone Manufacturing and Assembly” and “Kisan Drone” to meet the requirement of skilled manpower in the drone sector. The Directorate General of Training under the Ministry also gave affiliation to 116 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) across India to conduct these short-term courses. Bihar has 30 ITIs, the highest number of such ITIs, closely followed by Gujarat with 20 ITIs. However, the same is not extended to ITIs in Telangana because the Ministry claimed to have received no proposal from the State Skill Development & Entrepreneurship Committee.
The Ministry’s statement was in response to the following questions asked by MPs Venkatesh Nethaborlakunta, Dr. G. Ranjith Reddy and Kavitha Malothu:
- whether there is significant growth and innovation in drone sector in the country;
- if so, whether the Government is providing skill development in drone sector regarding its installation, operation, maintenance, service, etc., of drones in the country;
- if so, details thereof;
- whether it is true that the Government has given permission to some Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) to start short-term courses on drone;
- if so, whether it is also true that the Government has not given permission for any ITIs in Telangana for short-term courses on drone; and
- if so, the reasons therefor and the steps being taken for giving permission for ITIs in Telangana to start courses?
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