The Ahmedabad Fire Emergency Services also had a booth during the drone display, which drew interest from students, defence, and police officials.

Amber Dubey, joint secretary at the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), stressed how the liberalised drone policy will pave the way for creating “intellectual property” in this domain at the Gujarat Drone Mahotsav launch on Friday at the University ground in Ahmedabad, as small drones camouflaged with doves flew through the sky.

“In today’s environment, having IP (intellectual property) means being powerful… The new drone rules went into effect on August 25, and the Cabinet approved production-related incentives three weeks later, right in the middle of COVID19, when we were strapped for cash… Otherwise, the process will take eight to nine months. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet, on the other hand, recognise the value of drones. The government is offering a 20% refund (on the cost of manufacturing drones)… With our chequebooks in hand, we are standing. For example, if you sold a drone for Rs 100 and the production cost was Rs 40, you added Rs 60 to the value. Dubey stated, “You will receive 20% of this value increase as cashback.”

According to Dubey, this business generated Rs 60 crore in revenue in India last year. The Drone Mahotsav held in Gujarat was positioned not only as a precursor event to the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat scheduled for January 2022, but also as a means to attract investment through this sector at the Dholera Industrial City Development Project. MoCA is organising drone awareness programmes in various states of India in order to create awareness among drone-based end users such as farmers, students, academia, start-ups, government and private organisations.

The event, which was organised by Pradip Patel, CEO of Prime UAV and sponsored by Dholera Industrial City Development Limited, Adani Defence and Aerospace, and Blue Ray Aviation, was teeming with amateur drone enthusiasts, established drone companies, and start-ups, who were often seen fielding questions and requests for demonstrations from those passing by the stalls.

Sethuraj V, co-founder and CTO of Aerosys Aviation, a year-old start-up based in Noida that now builds drones for surveying and land mapping, sees a large local market to serve. According to Sethuraj, their company is in contact with the Bihar government in light of the recent flooding in the state, and as he explains, Aerosys’ drones can be used to map an area and predict the inundation pattern in the area with an accuracy of 80%, which can then be used to create an evacuation and rescue plan. Other applications for mapping drones include planning development across a large swath of land with centimetre-level accuracy, mining, and monitoring tree density in forests.

Drone use in agriculture is also a largely untapped industry, as the drone show highlighted, with the potential to reduce labour costs and time intensity. According to an official at S. Agri Udaan, an Ahmedabad-based company that delivers drones for spraying insecticides and pesticides, a 15-acre farmland may be sprayed in minutes with an 11-litre payload holding the insecticide or pesticide. “Such processes become especially successful with crops like paddy and sugarcane,” says the executive.

The Ahmedabad Fire Emergency Services also had a booth during the drone display, which drew interest from students, defence, and police officials. Demonstrators stated the drone was also put to practical service in a 2019 fire at a building in Ahmedabad’s Gota neighbourhood, Ganesh Genesis, with a payload that included a thermal imaging scanner and an optical scanner.

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