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India making frantic efforts to boost drone industry

India will need approximately 100,000 drone pilots in the coming years as the sector is on the path of ‘exponential growth’, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said, adding that the country has the potential of becoming a global drone hub by 2030.

India making frantic efforts to boost drone industry
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India making frantic efforts to boost drone industry

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India will need approximately 100,000 drone pilots in the coming years as the sector is on the path of 'exponential growth', Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said, adding that the country has the potential of becoming a global drone hub by 2030.

According to a report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and global consultancy firm, EY, Indian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market is expected to touch $885.7 million by 2021, while the global market size of drone is pegged at $21.47 billion.

A recent report by BIS Research refers to the drone market in India reaching $1.81 billion by 2026. In comparison, the global market for drones is projected to touch $41 billion by 2026.

Speaking at a panel discussion titled Making India a Global Drone Hub by 2023: Issues and Way Forward, Ministry of Civil Aviation Joint Secretary Amber Dubey said, "India has the potential to become a Drone Hub by 2030 with a potential to getting 25 per cent global market share even as the new regulations will aid the process.

Currently India is the fifth largest importer of drones. To promote domestic drone manufacturing, the Indian Directorate General of Foreign Trade (Ministry of Commerce) notified that the "import policy of drones in CBU/CKD/SKD form under HS Code 8806 is 'prohibited' with exceptions provided for R&D, Defence, and Security purposes. Import of drone components shall be 'Free'. This shall come into force with immediate effect."

The notification was made on February 9, 2022 and is in sync with the Finance Act, 2021. The first and perhaps the larger opportunity for India is developing drone software and applications tailored to the needs of a specific industry. Industry estimates peg the global drone software market to reach $21.9 billion by 2026.

India's aviation ministry has opened the application window under the PLI Scheme for the Drone Industry for those manufacturers of drones and drone components that crossed the scheme's eligibility threshold in the last financial year, April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. The deadline for submitting the application form is 23.59 hours on May 20, 2022. The final list of PLI beneficiaries will be released by June 30, 2022.

Besides the PLI scheme, India has streamlined the bureaucracy for drone use and industrial applications. From April 1, 2022, all drone owners are mandated to possess a valid UIN, which will promote secure drone operations without needing multiple approvals. India has taken a tech-first approach with the Digital Sky platform, digitising everything, from registration to operations of drones.

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