Drone Didi: IIT Mandi training women to become ‘kisan drone operators’

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New Delhi: Several women in Himachal Pradesh are receiving training to operate drones for agricultural purpose with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi launching “Drone Didi”, a one-of-its-kind skill development programme.

According to officials, the agricultural drone applications will save time and pesticide and are very cost-effective. This will also reduce the impact of pesticides on human health. Participants are being trained to leverage drone technology for enhanced agricultural practices.

“Our vision is to create a paradigm shift in agricultural practices through the empowerment of women. By integrating skill development with drone technology, we are not just training women to become proficient ‘kisan drone operators’ but are also paving the way for them to emerge as leaders and entrepreneurs in this field.

“The aim is to expand its reach, enhance technological capabilities, and continuously evolve to meet the dynamic and operational demands of agriculture and entrepreneurship,” Somjit Amrit, CEO, IIT Mandi i-Hub told PTI.

According to Amrit, the programme has a comprehensive three-month residential training regimen.

“Given that we are in Himachal Pradesh, a state known for its fruit production, the role of kisan drone operator is highly relevant and has the potential to generate numerous employment opportunities, including entrepreneurship. This training encompasses various facets of drone operations, providing hands-on experience and preparing aspiring women for the role,” he said.

The institute also has plans to take up the programme at the national level.

Shashi Bala, a beneficiary of the programme, said, “I have a background in B.Sc (Agriculture) and have been seeking a different and exciting career path in agriculture. I have learned a few skills so far in this programme such as drone applications, maintenance, DGCA guidelines, agri-drone applications, business skills, and soft skills.”

Komal Thakur, another beneficiary, said, “As an electrical engineer from a farmer’s family, I wanted to learn about pesticide spraying for our tomato and apple crops which we grow in our village. The Drone Didi programme has been a great help, allowing me to learn this technology without any financial burden. Learning about drone applications, regulations, and business skills has been enriching.”

The IIT team also presented the initiative before President Droupadi Mumru at an event in New Delhi last month.

“Empowering women in the crucial realm of agriculture through the implementation of drone automation is a transformative initiative. It not only harnesses the power of technology but also fosters a more inclusive and equitable agricultural landscape. The integration of women into this pivotal sector ensures a diversified and skilled workforce, contributing significantly to the growth and sustainability of our agricultural practices,” Murmu had said.

Executed with support from the Agriculture Skill Council of India, the first batch of the Drone Didi programme is currently underway with a total of 20 female students on the IIT Mandi campus.

The programme is being executed in collaboration with the institute’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR). In addition to technical support, CAIR is also providing on-the-job opportunities to Drone Didis.

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