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Roundup: Ban on using Chinese components in military drones, Karnataka govt’s plans to become a drone sector hub, and other stories

A round-up of some of the biggest developments in the drone sector in the recent past.


Between August and September, the drone sector has seen some interesting developments, from using drones to survey MNREGA worksites, to a curb on the use of Chinese components in military drones, here is a round-up of some of the biggest drone stories in the recent past.

Yet another attempt at curbing Chinese tech: 

On August 7, Reuters reported that the Indian government barred domestic manufacturers of military drones from using components made in China over concerns about security vulnerabilities, as per some unnamed government sources. The report suggests that this attempt to curb the use of Chinese tech complements phased import restrictions on surveillance drones since 2020.

While the government hasn’t confirmed such a ban, they have imposed similar restrictions on Chinese telecom equipment manufacturers and Chinese apps. In the case of telecom equipment, it did so by only allowing equipment that bears a “Trusted Products” mark for network expansion. A mark that was not provided to two major telecom equipment manufacturers from China, Huawei and ZTE. 

Coromandel International bags order from the Indian army: 

On August 7, fertilizer producer Coromandel International announced that its subsidiary Dhaksha Unmanned Systems bagged an order to supply 200 medium-altitude logistics drones and accessories to the Indian Army. It also mentioned that the subsidiary has received a 400-drone contract from agri-inputs cooperative IFFCO (Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative) for the supply of agri-spraying drones. 

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According to the press release, with the two new orders, Dhaksha’s orders for the current year now exceed Rs.165 crore. Coromandel International became the majority shareholder (51%) in Daksha Unmanned Systems in June this year, and it believes that the defense contract enables the entry of Coromandel and Murugappa Group into the Indian Defence sector supplies [Coromandel International is a part of the Coromandel and Murugappa Group].

Using drones to monitor MNREGA worksites: 

On August 27, the Union Ministry of Rural Development released the standard operating procedure (SOP) for monitoring Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) worksites. Under the SOP, the following kinds of drone-based monitoring will be carried out —

  • Monitoring of ongoing and completed work (by capturing geo-referenced images before the start of work and during the execution of the work)
  • Impact assessment of the completed works
  • Special inspection in case of complaints 

All the videos and images collected by the drones will be uploaded on NREGAsoft (NREGA’s e-Governance system) and will be stored in its database for 15 days. In a comment to the Hindu, a senior official at the Ministry of Rural Development said that the ministry receives several complaints about corruption in MNREGS works and that this drone-based surveillance system will be helpful in gathering evidence. 

Karnataka Government is welcoming the drone sector with open arms: 

According to a report by the Deccan Herald, the Karnataka government is planning a ‘multi-pronged push’ to make the state the go-to destination for the drone sector. To do so, it is looking to come up with research and development facilities and testing laboratories for drone development. A government official speaking to DH said that the government is carrying out consultations with industry stakeholders to create a drone policy, a subsidy scheme, and other incentives. 

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