In a move aimed at making drones more accessible to the farmers, the Union Agriculture Ministry has decided to provide 40-100 per cent subsidy until March 2023 in purchasing drone by revising guidelines in the existing scheme on farm mechanization.

The guidelines of Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM) have been amended which envisages a grant up to 100 per cent of the cost of agriculture drone or ₹10 lakhs, whichever is less, as a grant for the purchase of drones, the Ministry said in a statement Saturday. But, this 100 per cent grant will be limited to only Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institutes, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and State Agriculture Universities for taking up large-scale demonstrations of this technology on the farmers’ fields, it said.

Agriculture graduates establishing Custom Hiring Centers (CHCs) will be eligible to receive 50 per cent of the basic cost of a drone and its attachments or up to ₹5 lakh in grant for drone purchases, the ministry said. Existing CHCs or new ones, already or to be set up by cooperative society of farmers, farmer producers organizations (FPOs) and rural entrepreneurs are entitled to receive 40 per cent (maximum ₹4 lakh) as grant on the basic cost of drone.

“CHCs are the main agencies at grassroots to popularize farm mechanization and unless they are given the incentives, drone use will not gather momentum,” said a senior official adding demonstration on farmers’ field is also equally important.

The FPOs would be eligible to receive a subsidy of 75 per cent of the cost of drone if used only for demonstration purpose.

Additionally, ₹6,000/hectare would be given to these implementing agencies that hire drones from CHCs, Hi-tech Hubs, drone manufacturers and start-ups for demonstrations. But, they would receive Rs 3,000/hectare if purchase the drones for demonstrations.

Rural entrepreneurs are defined as those who have passed the class tenth examination from a recognised Board and have a remote pilot license from an institute recognized by the Director-General of Civil Aviation(DGCA).

The subsidized purchase of agriculture drones for CHCs/Hi-tech Hubs will make the technology affordable, resulting in their widespread adoption, the Ministry said. This would make drones more accessible to the common man and will also significantly encourage domestic drone production, it said.

The demonstrating institutions and all the providers of agricultural services through drone application will have to comply with rules, regulations and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) made already by different departments. The Agriculture Ministry has already issued guidelines and SOPs for use of drone in spraying pesticides.