🔴The drone exhibition, apart from attracting interest from students, defence and police personnel, also saw an exhibit by the Ahmedabad Fire Emergency Services.

At the launch of the Gujarat Drone Mahotsav held at the University ground in Ahmedabad on Friday, as small drones camouflaged with doves in the sky, Amber Dubey, joint secretary at the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) stressed on how the liberalised drone policy now will pave the way for creating “intellectual property” in this domain.

“In today’s world, the one who has IP (intellectual property) is the one who is powerful… The liberalised drone rules came on August 25 and within three weeks the Cabinet approved the production linked incentives, that too amid COVID19 when we are pressed for money… This process otherwise takes eight-nine months. But identifying the importance of drones, there is support from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.. The government is giving 20 percent cashback (on the cost incurred for manufacturing drones)… We are standing with our cheque books. Say if you sold a drone at a cost of Rs 100, with manufacturing cost at Rs 40, you added a value of Rs 60. 20 percent of this value addition you will get as cashback,” said Dubey.

According to Dubey, India last year saw a turnover of Rs 60 crore from this sector. MoCA is organising drone awareness programs in various states of India in a bid to create awareness among drone-based end users such as farmers, students, academia, start-ups, government and private organisations and the Drone Mahotsav held in Gujarat was poised not only as a precursor event to the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat scheduled for January 2022 but is also a means to attract investment through this sector at the Dholera Industrial City Development Project.

The event organised by Pradip Patel, CEO at Prime UAV and sponsored by Dholera Industrial City Development Limited, Adani Defence and Aerospace and Blue Ray Aviation was teeming with amateur drone enthusiasts, established drone companies as well as start-ups, often seen fielding queries and demonstration requests from those visiting the stalls.

Sethuraj V, co-founder and CTO of Aerosys Aviation, a Noida-based year-old start-up, that currently manufactures drones for surveying and land mapping, sees a huge domestic market to cater to. As Sethuraj says, their company is in touch with the Bihar government in light of the flooding seen recently in the state and as he explains, Aerosys’ drones can be used to map an area and predict the inundation pattern in the area through a software with 80 percent accuracy, which can then be used to draw up an evacuation and rescue plan. Other use of such mapping drones can be used for planning construction over a swathe of land with centimetre-level accuracy, for mining, for monitoring tree density in forests and to monitor the same.

As the drone exhibition also demonstrated, drone usage in agriculture too is a broadly untapped market, with the potential of reducing labour cost and time intensivity. As an executive at S. Agri Udaan, an Ahmedabad-based company, delivering drones for spraying insecticides and pesticides says, an 11 litre payload carrying the insecticide or pesticides can complete the job of spraying over a 15 acre farmland in minutes. “With crops such as paddy and sugarcane, such mechanisms become especially effective,” says the executive.

The drone exhibition, apart from attracting interest from students, defence and police personnel, also saw an exhibit by the Ahmedabad Fire Emergency Services. With a payload consisting of a thermal imaging scanner as well as an optical scanner, demonstrators said the drone was also put to practical use in a 2019 fire at a building in Gota area of Ahmedabad, Ganesh Genesis.

Explaining the mechanism, AFES officials said, “The thermal imaging can be done from the top as well as from the side of a building through the wall, even from 15 feet away from the wall. Given the smoke, the thermal detector would not only tell us the source of fire but also if there is any people movement or for that matter the number of people trapped inside.”

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