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This is only the beginning – soon our skies will be filled with delivery drones providing efficient and climate-friendly services.

by Poojitha Nakul

I n a significant move to boost drone technology in rural agriculture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the NAMO Drone Didi scheme on November 30, 2023. The Union Cabinet approved the Central Sector Scheme for providing Drones to 15,000 Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) with an outlay of Rs. 1261 Crore for the period from 2024-25 to 2025-26 for providing rental services to farmers for agriculture purpose in order to empower women SHGs and bring new technologies in agriculture sector. Central Financial Assistance of 80% of the cost of drone and accessories/ancillary charges (up to Rs. 8 Lakh) will be provided to the women SHGs for purchase of drones.

The Cluster Level Federation (CLFs) of SHGs may raise the balance amount as loan under National Agriculture Infra Financing Facility (AIF) (with interest subvention at 3%).

Women will also be provided necessary training to fly and use drones:

One selected women SHG member will be provided 15-day training comprising of 5-day mandatory drone pilot training and additional 10- day training for agriculture purpose of nutrient and pesticide application.

Another with inclination to take up repairs of electrical goods, fitting and mechanical works will be trained as drone technician/assistant.

Considering the difficulties which SHGs may face in procuring the drones, repair and maintenance of drones through drone companies, Lead Fertilizer Companies will act as bridge between drone supplier companies and SHGs. Lead Fertilizer Companies will also promote the use of Nano Fertilizers such as Nano Urea and Nano DAP. SHGs will rent out the drone services to the farmers for Nano fertilizer and also for pesticide applications. 

On 30th November 2023, PM Modi launched the PM Mahila Kisan Drone Kendra, which will provide drones to women Self Help Groups (SHGs) so that this technology can be used by them for livelihood assistance. PM Modi from Red Fort on 15 August 2023 had announced the Govt’s aim to create 2 crores ‘Lakhpati Didis’ in villages – SHG Didis who earn sustainable income of at least Rs 1 Lakh per annum per household. In pitching for leveraging the potential of science and technology in rural development, the PM said that 15,000 Women’s

Self-Help Groups would be given loan and training for operating and repairing drones, and “Drone ki Udaan” will be carried out by these Women’s Self-Help Groups.

The Role of Women Self-Help Groups

Self-help groups, predominantly composed of women, form the backbone of India’s microfinance sector, with a vast network exceeding 12 million groups.

These collectives are pivotal in various livelihood ventures, showing robust repayment performance and substantially contributing to financial inclusion, skill enhancement, and livelihood diversification, especially in agriculture where 75% of the rural female workforce is engaged.

Empowering Rural Women with Drone Technology:

o Extending drone access to 15,000 women SHGs for farmers’ rental, fostering technological integration into rural life.

o Elevating rural women by placing them at the forefront of the economy through cutting- edge drone technology.

Pioneers of Agricultural Revolution:
o Cultivating a new agricultural revolution led by women drone pilots.
o Generating employment opportunities as drone pilots, mechanics, and spare-part dealers, reinforcing the economic backbone of rural communities.

Opportunities for Start-ups:
o Paving the way for dynamic start-ups in drone aeronautics.
o Unleashing untapped potential in the emerging sector, contributing to economic growth and innovation.

Effective Fertigation System:
o Harnessing drones as efficient fertigation systems for innovative liquid fertilizers.
o Addressing challenges in traditional fertilization methods, fostering equity in agrarian family culture.

Time and Labor Savings:
o Application of pesticides and fertilizers through drones streamlining processes, reducing physical toil.
o Granting farmers more time for productive agricultural work.

The NAMO Drone Didi scheme, supported by Pradhan Mantri Krishi Samriddhi Kendras, is expected to be a forerunner of a modern-day agricultural revolution by placing rural women at the centre of economic activity and prosperity.

By Poojitha Nakul

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