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Agriculture ministry eyes drones for night duty in locust fight

The broad specification comes a little over one month after India’s civil aviation regulator granted the agriculture ministry conditional exemption to use drones in anti-locust operations, making India the first country to do so.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jun 29, 2020, 07.05 AM IST
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Drones will, however, not replace traditional methods of locust control, which are still cheaper.
Bengaluru: The Department of Agriculture is looking for drones that can fly at night and stay airborne for an extended duration, as it seeks to expand use of unmanned aerial vehicles to fight off locust swarms that have invaded India’s western and central region.

The broad specification comes a little over one month after India’s civil aviation regulator granted the agriculture ministry conditional exemption to use drones in anti-locust operations, making India the first country to do so.

It also comes ahead of the start of monsoon season in Rajasthan and surrounding regions, where desert locusts will migrate to over the next few weeks to breed and lay their eggs.

Over the weekend, locust swarms descended upon Gurugram, with parts of Delhi also put on high alert.

“Locusts are most inactive after sunset, so it makes sense to spray at night. We are also in talks with manufacturers who have drones that are powered by fuel, so they can stay airborne for a longer duration,” said Atish Chandra, joint secretary, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Department of Agriculture.

The ministry of agriculture is currently processing the expanded list of requirements and it will seek permissions from the civil aviation ministry soon.

Though a fairly small deployment, with just a dozen drones in operation and another dozen soon to be deployed, the agriculture department has found them to be invaluable in spraying the tops of tall trees and for their ability to reach inaccessible areas. Drones will, however, not replace traditional methods of locust control, which are still cheaper.
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