AgTech : Drones are Better than Satellite Imagery to Estimate Crop Loss

The government’s apex planning body tasked a committee with studying how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used in crop insurance schemes has said drones trump satellite technology for the purpose. For effective crop insurance policies, this committee also maintained that sharing cadastral like land’s location, ownership, tenure details, Aadhaar card and bank account details is “mandatory”.

According to a draft report of the subcommittee’s recommendation, “The ideal alternative is to gather data from low heights hence below the cloud and at very high resolution where aerial photography or UAVs score over all available alternatives and due to their non-availability during cloud cover, limited revisit possibility during the crop season and high price, the current satellites which are even better than 10m spatial resolution would not be sufficient.”

The sub-committee was submitted its report to the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog). It is constituted of experts from the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Indian Agriculture Research Institute, weather technology firm Skymet and international reinsurance company Swiss Re. To look at ways to use technology in agriculture insurance schemes, there are several sub-groups too constituted by the NITI Ayog.

Report says “Farmer field coordinates be made mandatory for issuance of insurance policy. This will help in tracking the crop field throughout the crop season without much ground monitoring, and, any kind of loss can readily be verified from satellite data.”

The government launched the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) this year, by replacing the existing National Agricultural Insurance Scheme, which will allow farmers relatively lower premiums. It also allows them to be insured against post-harvest losses.

Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh informed that 22 States have come forward to implement the scheme and Rs. 5,500 crore has been earmarked for the scheme for the 2016-17 period.

Drones are a better than satellite imagery since the committee has recommended pilot surveys that can estimate varying risk profiles for different regions of the country, and that for schemes such as PMFBY.