Minister of State Civil Aviation General Vijay Kumar Singh (Rtd) launched India’s first research centre in drone technology and artificial intelligence at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati. The department, officially named as ‘Centre for Excellence in Research on Drone Technology, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and Artificial Intelligence’, will have a skill development centre and a nodal centre for all of the northeast within it.
The nodal centre will focus on the overall administrative drone data management. It will also function as a policy drafting centre for state governments to build the UAV industry in India. The centre will have ‘AXOMdroneports’ — which will be used to support cargo drones delivering urgent goods, medical and emergency supplies, and valuable supplies to remote areas of the northeast region.
On the other hand, the skill development centre aims to work in collaboration with the state government, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Ministry of Defense for capacity building and advanced training. It will encompass drone operation as well as drone maintenance. The skill development centre will also provide professional UAV training to government and private organizations — the institute claims that this will include users such as farmers, security personnel, disaster relief and management personnel.
Addressing the inaugural event, Singh said, “Having understood the remarkable potential of drones to transform every sector of the economy, the government has brought out the New Drone Rules in August 2021. It has followed this up with a Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) for manufacturers. Our focus is to develop India as an important and integral value multiplier to the global drone ecosystem.” Singh added that drones can create employment and lead to economic growth “due to their reach, versatility, and ease of use especially in India’s remote and inaccessible areas.” He said, “It’s encouraging to see the IITs of our country take some timely initiatives in this direction.”
Who is involved?
This programme was organised by IIT G in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). The initiative is meant to address various aspects of drone technology such as advancements, training, legal, administrative management and logistics. The Minister began his tour by interacting with drone companies and start-ups. He was led by the Director of IIT G, TG Sitharam, and other high ranking officials of the institute.
Sitharam claimed, “Utilizing the salient features, which drone assisted technology offers, the remote and difficult terrains in the entire northeast region can be brought within reach during any emergency.”
Singh was also accompanied by the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Amber Dubey, and by Dipankar Barua who is the Chairman of the FICCI, Assam State Council. Barua said, “Northeastern region of the country is on a progressive track and welcomes use of drone technology for development in areas like — Border Security, Agriculture, Health, Tourism, Mining and Infrastructure.”
Barua said that FICCI has been closely working with the civil aviation ministry in the “process of policy transformation” with its inputs in the form of white papers and policy recommendations.
Using all brainpower
Along with the Technology Incubation Hub, where research on underwater drones is being carried out, the newly inaugurated center will utilise expertise available across the institute to provide thrust in development of drones/UAVs, software platforms, data collation and analysis. It will also assist innovators and start-ups in their research and development activities. In addition to this, the testing and due certification of drones will also be one of the main focus of this initiative. Already two drone-based start-ups are setting up their labs at IIT G Research Park.