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Ban of drone import to advance domestic drone manufacturing

Ban of drone import to advance domestic drone manufacturing
Photo Credit: Pixabay
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The government's latest decision to ban import of drones is expected to drive rapid advancements in domestic drone manufacturing ecosystem, drone industry executives told Mint. 

Though this is likely to be bad news for drone enthusiasts, who import drones for purposes like photography, video and other leisurely activities. 

“If you see the fine details of it (the notification), it is a good thing for us. They have actually given clarity on import of components. Earlier, there was none,” said Swapnik Jakkampudi, Co-founder, Skye Air Mobility, a drone delivery technology company. 

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“On the back of the PLI (production linked incentive) Scheme and greater demand for drones, we hope most of the electronic components that have to be imported, can be procured locally soon,” Jakkampudi added. 

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) had late on Wednesday issued a notification to ban the import of foreign drones with certain exceptions to promote the domestic manufacturing of drones in the country. 

The import of drones for research and development purposes (R&D), defence and security purposes have been exempted from the ban but are now subjected to require due clearances. 

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This development comes days after the Union Budget proposed the Drone Shakti scheme to facilitate application and use of 'drones as service' in the country.   

Also read: Drone-as-a-service will help collaboration, boost adoption

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had in the recently concluded union budget said that start-ups will be promoted to facilitate Drone Shakti through varied applications, while the required courses for skilling in states will begin soon. 

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The Union Budget has also proposed the use of drones in spraying of insecticides and nutrients, and crop assessment, to help the farm community. 

The government had in September last year approved a PLI scheme for manufacturing drones and drone components in the country 

A senior government official told Mint that while there is no ban on drone component imports, semi-knocked down (SKD) and completely knocked down (CKD) drone imports have been prohibited under the notification. 

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"SKD and CKD essentially come as a single package per drone which simply needs to be assembled. That will not be allowed.  But components, if they come separately, they will be allowed," the official said, requesting anonymity.   

"The idea is to provide a fillip to drone manufacturing in India. Allowing components will help manufacturers with the required raw materials or inputs and be able to use the PLI scheme," the official added. 

Another senior drone industry executive told Mint that most drone technology/delivery companies in India import flight controller and motors from abroad while they procure other parts locally as per their airframe design. 

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The government decision to ban import of drones is likely to hurt enthusiasts, who use drones for aerial photography, videography, and other uses, and those that typically import the full drone, the person said under the condition of anonymity. 

The latest notification will however create an environment to advance 

the (domestic) drone manufacturing ecosystem, said Smit Shah, President of Drone Federation of India, a non-government industry-led body that promotes unmanned aviation industry in India. 

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“Most companies are importing a lot of (drone) parts but none of them are importing the whole drone,” Shah added.