The flying machines are used extensively in the United States and other developed countries for spraying chemicals and surveillance of crops.
Taking a leaf out of the agricultural practices of developed nations, the state Agriculture Commissionerate, for the first time, is going to use drones to spray insecticide over cotton crop this year. The pilot experiment is being planned in Yavatmal district, said Subhash Nagare, joint director of agriculture, Amravati division.
Right now, officials of the Department of Agriculture, as well as the revenue department, were looking for a suitable plot for the project, he said. "The selected field should not have any high-tension electric poles or large trees," said Nagare.
As permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is necessary to fly a drone, the necessary modalities are being worked out. Commissioner of Agriculture, Sachindra Pratap Singh, said the experiment would be closely monitored to check whether it was feasible for other cotton fields. "A large number of permissions are necessary for operating drones and we are working on those," he said. The Commissionerate will also check the economic viability of the project during the pilot experiment.
For the pilot project, the department will sign a MoU with a start-up, which had come up with this particular idea. Last year, 18 agricultural labourers had died in Yavatmal after they accidentally inhaled fumes while spraying chemicals on the field.
The incident had raised serious concerns, as the labourers reportedly didn't have adequate safety gear, and some activists had even sought a ban on such chemicals. Welcoming the move, Kishore Tiwari, chairman of the state government's Committee to Combat Farm Distress, said it would reduce the handling of chemicals by workers.
"However, proper care needs to be taken while operating the drones, to avoid spraying over water bodies," he said.
The usage of drones in agriculture is not a new concept, but in India, it is still in its nascent stage. The flying machines are used extensively in the United States and other developed countries for spraying chemicals and surveillance of crops.