Drone Tech to Empower Agritech Startups, Skilling via ITIs Next Frontier

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Not only for creating light shows, as seen during the Beating Retreat ceremony, the government now focuses on drone technology to empower agritech startups and create a skilled workforce via various Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs).

In her Union Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that startups would be promoted to facilitate ‘Drone Shakti’ through varied applications and for Drone-As-A-Service (DrAAS).

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“In select ITIs, in all states, the required courses for skilling will be started,” she added.

Drone technology is an integral part of several agri-tech startups as these are used for crop assessment, digitization of land records, and spraying of insecticides and nutrients.

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Experts say that filling the skill gap in this area is a revolutionary step for an agriculture-dominated country like ours.

It is estimated that about 600-700 agritech startups in India (the IT industry’s apex body Nasscom last reported 450 in India two years ago) operate at different levels of agri-value chains.

Sushma Paul Berlia, Chairperson, National Council on Ease of Doing Business at Assocham, said that “virtual education as a tool towards filling the gap took place due to the pandemic in the last two years” and it is heartening to ensure minimum quality education is available to all – whether through skilling portals or “skilling courses through various ITIs”.

ITIs starting skilling courses is welcome for low-end skills.

“Polytechnics are the right place to start offering skill courses especially as skills of tomorrow are of a higher order. Polytechnics should also be allowed to offer advanced skill programmes,” said Chocko Valliappa, Vice Chairman, Sona Group of Education institutions.

The budget duly recognizes the key role drone technology is playing in solving some really tough problems for sectors like land records, infrastructure, mining, disaster management, and agriculture. – Vipul Singh, Founder, and CEO, of Aarav Unmanned Systems (AUS)

“Furthermore, the announcement of Drone Rules 2021, the PLI scheme for the drone industry, and subsidies for drones to be used for agriculture applications have provided a fillip to the sector,” he said.

With the use of drones for land surveys and crop assessments, the government “seeks to leverage technology for enabling the next phase of sustainable socio-economic development of the nation”, said Nitin Bansal, MD, India Head-Networks, Market Area South East Asia, Oceania and India, Ericsson.

The budget has covered multiple avenues for the drone industry to rise, especially “promoting agricultural drones and NABARD fund to support startups will result in ensuring that the drone industry reach a new milestone”, said Swapnik Jakkampudi, Co-Founder, Skye Air Mobility, a drone delivery tech firm.

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