The drone industry is an emerging sector with uses in agriculture, the film industry, environment protection, espionage, defense, construction, infrastructure development, and much more. The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation estimated that the industry, which now has a turnover of around INR 80 crore, will reach INR 12,000-15,000 crore by 2026.
The global commercial drone market was valued at $6.51 billion in 2021, and it is expected to grow to $47.38 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 28.58%.
The Indian government has introduced several amendments to rules to boost the drone industry over the last few months. The need to obtain the remote pilot certificate to fly small and medium-sized drones has been done away with. The usage should be for non-commercial purposes.
In its bid to create a digital platform, it has relaxed norms and facilitated single-window clearance. This is to allow more players and the introduction of the latest technologies in the industry. Earlier, drone operators had to fill out 25 forms, which has now been reduced to a mere five. The new rules have done away with permits, security clearance, and unique authorization numbers.
Also, now drones can fly in nearly 85% of the airspace, which is a five-fold increase from the earlier norm. Still, a drone flier must register with the Director General of Civil Aviation, even if it is for a hobby.
Sky’s the limit for the drone industry
The recently introduced performance-linked investment scheme will encourage domestic players and reduce import dependence. The government has allocated Rs 120 crore under the scheme for drone manufacturers with a ban on importing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the other name for drones. With high projections and demand, the industry has 220 startups, a jump of 34.4% between August 2021 and February 2022.
The industry in India is expected to see a boom as many countries are likely to source the devices from here instead of China, which is the biggest manufacturer of drones in the world. Also, countries are developing a “China Plus” strategy to wean themselves away from importing. There are data security issues, too, as there is a fear that information gets stored in servers in China, which can be used for destructive purposes.
The sector is now seeing many multi-million-dollar deals. Reliance acquired a big stake in SankhyaSutra Labs in 2019 and Asteria Aerospace in 2021. DCM Shriram has bought 30% of Zyrone Dynamics, a drone manufacturer in Turkey. Adani Enterprises acquired 50% of General Aeronautics in May 2022. Infosys and RattanIndia, too, have interests in the industry players.