Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Aatmanirbhar drones not on the radar yet as India liberalises regulations

Awareness of drones has widened in the past few months. First, there was talk of using drones to ferry COVID-19 vaccines to remote parts of the country. Then, there was a drone attack on an airbase in Jammu last month, which was followed by assertions of developing anti-drone technology.

Last week, the government proposed to ease regulations on drones and put out the draft Drone Rules 2021 in the public domain to invite suggestions on how to simplify drone operations in the country.

So while drones will soon be zipping across Indian skies, they will not be made-in-India drones – nobody in the country fully manufactures drones. Most parts are imported and drones are only assembled locally.

The biggest drone assemblers in India include Idea Forge, Asteria Aerospace, Adani Defence and Tata Advance Systems. Many others are also entering this sector, according to Smit Shah, director of the Drone Federation of India, an association of drone pilots and companies in New Delhi.

Satyendra Pandey, managing partner at AT-TV, an aviation advisory firm in New Delhi, said the basic drone consists of the body, rotors, motors, a piloting system and various sensors.

According to Shah, there are three crucial parts of a drone – the battery, the motors, and the propellers, which are largely imported. For other parts, both Indian and foreign components are available. These include the main airframe, the flight controller, cameras or sensors used to capture data capture, radio links and ground control stations or the remote controller.

“In India, we are currently doing assembly and to a certain extent, airframe manufacturing. Hence, we cannot yet call ourselves as a drone-manufacturing nation in the true sense. Unless component manufacturing is done in India, we cannot hope to claim making a truly indigenous drone,” said Ankit Kumar, managing partner at Alternative Global India, a management consulting firm.

20/07/21 Ashwini Phadnis/Moneycontrol

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