The drone industry in India is set to soar with new drone rules that reduce red tape and barriers to entry.

Drone technology is witnessing widespread adoption across all industry segments due to its potential and applicability.

Zion Market Research has reported that the global small drones market will reach US$35.5bn by 2025, growing at a CAGR of slightly above 17.1% between 2019 and 2025. In fact, while the growth is profound, the only limiting factor in future could be the shortage of drone pilots, ‘remotely piloted aircraft pilots’ and sensor operators.

On the other hand, the rise in the demand for drones is anticipated to generate new market opportunities over the next couple of years. India, for example, will hold nearly 4.25% (nearly US$1.21bn) of this market. The nation has been the fastest-growing drone market in the world, having increased in size exponentially since the legalization of drones in 2018.

India’s drone ambitions

It would be safe to say India can convert this opportunity to a multi-billion-dollar industry in the next decade. Looking at this steep growth upward-curve, on 15 July, the Ministry of Civil Aviation released a draft policy for drones.

The new policy reduces the number of approvals required by applicants, introduces more safety measures, and envisions a trade body for drones. On 25 August, the ministry reduced the number of application forms for operating drones from 25 to just 5. It also decreased the types of fees charged to the operator from 72 to just four.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “The new rules will usher in a landmark moment for the sector in India. The rules are based on the premise of trust and self-certification. Approvals, compliance requirements and entry barriers have been significantly reduced.” In his next tweet, PM said: “The new Drone Rules will tremendously help start-ups and our youth working in this sector; it will open up new possibilities for innovation and business. It will help leverage India’s strengths in innovation, technology & engineering to make India a drone hub.”

Tackling the drone pilot shortage

According to the director of the Drone Federation of India, Smit Shah after the release of the draft drone rules: “If the government has taken this bold move of notifying a liberal policy then India has decided to be the leader in this technology”.

There are at least 100 drone manufacturers, at least 200 drone service providers and over 1 lakh drone pilots in India. After the drone policy becomes ratified, it will generate 5-7 lakh job opportunities, Shah said.

These developments translate into a great opportunity for drone pilots in India. It is said that there will be more than 5,000 certified drone pilots (including commercial & military) by 2025 in India due to the easing of drone regulation by DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation), as reported by ThePrint.

To ensure market growth is not halted due to pilot shortages, the Indian Institute of Drones (IID), in association with the Electronics Sector Skill Council of India, has inaugurated a Centre of Drone Pilot Training and Services & Maintenance of Drones in Guwahati, Assam. The institute, which has around 15 centers in the nation, has already trained over 2,200 drone pilots in India in the past four years.

In yet another move to strengthen the ecosystem, the Electronics Sector Skills Council of India (ESSCI) has signed a memorandum of understanding with IG Drones to explore collaboration opportunities in RPA training. Piyush Chakraborty, Officiating Head, ESSCI, said that 2022 will be a breakthrough year for adoption and will witness widespread usage of drones.

“2022 will be the year in which the hockey-stick upcurve in large-scale usage of drones in India will happen, upon the strong foundation of the Drones Rules 2021, the UTM policy (a draft policy for the UAV Traffic Management Ecosystem) and more. Under this partnership, ESSCI and IG Drones will combine their efforts in developing the drone ecosystem in the country,” Chakraborty said.

The Drones-as-a-Service market

Speaking about the growing use of drones in the medical industry, Prem Kumar Vislawath, Founder & Chief Innovator, Marut Drones, said: “Medical delivery drones have a real potential to resolve persistent transportation challenges, ensuring reliable access to medicines in areas not currently or consistently reached by ground transportation. Increasingly, drones are being considered for the delivery of emergency supplies and health products, such as vaccines, blood products and laboratory samples. The pandemic has expanded the medical logistics challenge from the last mile to a middle mile and last mile challenge.”

With this versatility, a cloud-based Drones-as-a-Service market is set to gain substantial momentum as an outsourced option for improving the operational efficiency of package delivery services and related sectors such as construction, insurance, aerospace and real estate.