India’s agriculture department is looking for drones that can fly at night and remain airborne for extended periods of time. This is because it seeks to expand its use to fight invading locusts in the western and central regions of India.
The broad specification comes more than a month after India’s civil aviation regulator made India the first country to offer conditional use of drones in anti-locust operations.
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.
Although a fairly small deployment, only a dozen drones will be operated and a dozen more will be deployed soon. The Department of Agriculture found them invaluable for their ability to spray on the tops of tall trees and reach accessible areas. Drones will not replace traditional methods of locust control, which is still cheap.