VIF-FICCI Conference 2022; Making India a Global Drone Hub
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On 01-02 September 2022, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) jointly organised a two-day conference on Making India a Global Drone Hub in New Delhi, India. The two-day conference brought together representatives from the Indian government, business leaders, academics, and researchers from various organisations to discuss India's expanding drone sector in depth.

The emergence of new technologies and their impact on the evolution of our civilisations have long been debated topics. It is well known that new technologies are used as a country advances. Throughout the development of these technologies, the security component received the least attention. Drones have various applications, including agriculture and health, resource surveys, geospatial mapping, border management, law enforcement, traffic control, policing, and disaster management. The applications for drones are virtually limitless.

In his keynote address, Dr Arvind Gupta, Director of the VIF, highlighted the first-of-its-kind ‘Drone Mahotsav’ held in May 2022 and emphasised that the conference is a timely initiative in which leading drone manufacturers, users, and service providers are jointly understanding the phenomenon and brainstorming on what it takes to make India a global drone hub. Dr Arvind Gupta also highlighted some of the significant initiatives undertaken by the Government of India toward making India a drone hub by 2030. The initiatives, such as the passage of the Liberalized Drone Rules 2021 and the Production-Linked Initiative (PLI) scheme for the manufacture of drones and drone components, will result in an investment of over 5,000 crores over the next three years; additionally, the annual sales turnover of the drone manufacturing sector may increase from 60 crores in 2020-2021 to over 900 crores in the fiscal year 2023-2024. The growth of the drone industry will also provide skill-sector job opportunities. According to an estimate, the drone manufacturing sector will generate over 10,000 direct jobs over the next three years. Emphasising the holistic approach, Dr Arvind Gupta said that “much will depend upon the growth of a holistic eco-system of finance, technology, Research and Development (R&D), innovation, and above all on creating synergies between multiple stakeholders, horizontal and vertical linkages among various sectors and technologies. In achieving these objectives, drone policies and regulations will play a crucial role.”

In the inaugural address, Hon’ble Minister of State (MoS) for Civil Aviation, Government of India— General (Dr) V K Singh (Retd) highlighted the significance of focussing on quality, innovation, and indigenisation as a means of lowering manufacturing costs. The MoS stated that by focusing on various aspects of drones, the industry would be able to dominate the drone market in India and around the world, whereas the initial R&D investment will get the market and what has been invested in more significant measure for long-term goals in the drone sector.

The member of the SCALE Committee, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Government of India, Mr Jalaj Dani, stated that the importance of drones is not limited to the defence sector but expanded to other sectors as well. “Innovation will be crucial for drone sectors, and India must take the lead in technology and become the global hub for drone technology,” added Dani. In Making India the Drone Hub of the World, a report produced by FICCI in collaboration with Ernst & Young (EY) claimed that the drone and component industries can increase India’s drone manufacturing potential to over USD 23 billion by 2030. In addition to assisting organisations and start-ups, the report proposed a cooperative strategy for ministries to coordinate their efforts and ensure rapid advancement. The report also details how drones are being used in various industries, including infrastructure, retail, agriculture, homeland security, and many others.

In his remarks, Mr Amber Dubey, Joint Secretary at India's Ministry of Civil Aviation, asked the drone industry, including manufacturers, to improve quality standards through suggested regulatory changes and enhancements to certification procedures, as India is going toward system-based governance in its entirety. Mr Dubey mentioned that the Quality Council of India (QCI) had been selected by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to examine the procedure for quality certification and clearances. The QCI has conducted a collaborative approach and produced a guidance booklet.Since quality is so important, we have contracted with companies that are more knowledgeable in the field. We [the Government of India] are looking at this form of Public-Private Partnership (PPP), added Mr Dubey.

Highlighting the role of drones in national security, the Director of VIF, Dr Arvind Gupta, raised concerns about the use of drones in warfare, mainly in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in 2020 and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict that started at the beginning of this year. Giving the example of a drone attack by Houthi terrorists against Saudi Arabia-based oil giant— Armaco in 2019, Dr Gupta highlighted its extensive use in the grey-zone conflicts. Along with drone, there is a need to develop counter-drone technologies, which is still infancy. Police, paramilitary forces, and other law-enforcement agencies must adopt drone technologies in their operations. However, we must also ensure that drone technology does not infringe upon citizens’ privacy rights.

India must invest heavily in drone Research & Development and innovation to become a worldwide hub for drones. To make India a hub for drone manufacturing, a sizable eco-system that integrates funding, R&D, expertise, education, trade, academic-government interactions, and industry partnerships is required. If we do not get involved in creating and establishing technology standards, we will be consumers and assembly points for other nations.

Event Date 
September 1, 2022
September 2, 2022

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