Drone Shakti: A big push for the drone sector

Drones appear to have fascinated everyone and are becoming increasingly widespread. This technology is being used by a wide range of businesses and organizations, including the military, government, commercial, and recreational users.

This year, India’s Republic Day celebrations were a proud moment for the country. To mark 75 years of independence, a magnificent 10-minute drone show was organised, featuring over 1,000 drones built using local technology. The synchronised drones created complex formations such as a map of India with an Ashok Chakra in the middle, followed by a formation of Mahatma Gandhi.

It was quite a sight. In India, the government has been working hard to develop a set of regulations governing drone use and manufacture. Until early last year, we didn’t have well-established laws for producing and operating unmanned aircraft systems as a country.

In August 2021, the Centre unveiled new liberalised guidelines aimed at ushering in an age of supernormal growth while balancing safety and security concerns.

These new regulations will undoubtedly change the Indian drone landscape. The revelation of Drone Shakti in the Union Budget, however, gave the sector the biggest boost. According to the government, Drone Shakti will be facilitated by start-ups offering “drones as a service.”

To encourage the local drone industry, the Indian government has banned the import of drones with immediate effect, barely 11 days after Republic Day (9th February 2022).

Manufacturers and users are both surprised and hopeful as a result of the prohibition. In the short term, they are shocked, but they remain positive because they believe local manufacturing will perk up in the long run. Drones for research and development, as well as defence and security, will be exempt from the prohibition, although permission will be required. Drone parts can be imported with no permission required.

This action would encourage overseas firms to set up shop in India while also boosting manufacturing in India.

This could not only result in more job opportunities but also a spike in investment in the Indian drone industry.

Furthermore, these improvements will allow Indian drone start-ups to scale up production and contribute to the country’s total drone manufacturing boom. However, it is necessary to assess if Indian drone producers are currently capable of serving the whole drone sector without relying on imported drones. From a short-term perspective, Indian importers who would have already placed orders with foreign manufacturers for the purchase of drones would be negatively impacted as the ban takes effect immediately.

While some may argue that this is a restrictive strategy, it might be considered a way for Indian drone manufacturers to add value by developing novel designs utilising imported components. Such imports might make it simpler for local drone businesses to create competitive machines, as well as for the Ministry to realize its ambition of having India be a manufacturing and operations drone center by 2030 if the necessary legislative and administrative backing is in place.

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