Releasing the SoP, the agriculture ministry said, in recent years, use of drones in agriculture has gained prominence and some states are actively engaged in checking the suitability of this new technology in Indian agriculture.
“Application of pesticides using drones has great potential as we move towards commercialization and achieving precision in agricultural crops,” it said.
According to the ministry, the SoP for drone regulation for pesticide application covers important aspects like statutory provisions, flying permissions, area distance restrictions, weight classification, overcrowded areas restriction, drone registration, safety insurance, piloting certification, operation plan, air flight zones, weather conditions.
It also covers SOPs for pre, post and during operation period, emergency handling plan, etc.
The aerial application of pesticides through drones will be allowed subject to certain provisions. For instance, operators should use only approved pesticides and their formulations at approved concentration and height.
Operators have to ensure washing decontamination and first-aid facilities and notify the public about aerial application of pesticide not less than 24 hours in advance through competent authorities. Further, the pilots should undergo specialized training including clinical effects of insecticides, the ministry added.
“This SoP will render guidance to the stakeholders/ pilot/operators/users/regulators while undertaking safe and effective control of pest and diseases by drone-based pesticide application,” said Ravi Prakash, Plant Protection Adviser at Faridabad-based Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage.
In conventional agricultural practices, pesticides are sprayed either manually or with the help of tractor-mounted sprayers where high quantity of pesticides and water are used and where a sizable portion of spray goes waste in the environment.
However, drone-based spray requires less amount of water, as well as pesticides, due to better application and bioefficiency. Welcoming the SoP, CropLife India Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Asitava Sen said it is indeed a proud moment that the transparent deliberations within Department of Agriculture, Central Insecticide Board and Ministry of Civil Aviation as well as industry experts have resulted in the pragmatic SoP and guidelines for registration requirements.
“These guidelines will now be studied and set the benchmark for ongoing engagements in other Asian countries,” he said in a statement.
As the guidelines for registration requirements of pesticides for drone application have also been released simultaneously, the industry body urged the agrochemicals industry to initiate the necessary trials, apply for product registration and collaborate with drone manufacturers and service providers for the benefit of Indian farmers.