New Delhi, Jan 28: In a bid to settle crop insurance claims as quickly as possible, the government has decided to purchase unmanned aircraft technology ‘Drone’ for assessing crop damage faster and more accurately. The move follows a direction from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for using modern farm technologies to implement effectively the new crop insurance scheme, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana from June this year. “We have already given an in-principle approval to Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (MNCFC) for purchase of a drone technology.

An e-tender will be issued next month,” a senior Agriculture Ministry official told. Initially, the government will purchase one drone technology and would order for more after checking the feasibility, the official said. The ministry’s plan is to purchase one drone for each state and at least 20 drones in the next five years. (Also Read: Coal Ministry to take CCEA nod for fuel supply to power projects)

The cost of one drone and its maintenance is estimated to be around Rs 70 lakh, which the government has already allocated in the 2015-16 Budget, the official added. Last year, the government had hired a drone for pilot test in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharasthra. At present, there is a huge delay in settlement of crop insurance claims because of manual assessment of crop loss. In the existing crop insurance schemes, some farmers have not got claims for crop loss witnessed two years ago. The government has addressed these concerns in the new crop insurance scheme which will be rolled out from 2016 kharif (summer) season starting June. Farmers will pay less premium and get early settlement of their claim under the new scheme.