back to article India bans drone imports to help local manufacturers take off

India wants to promote locally-made drones, so has banned almost all imports of the aircraft, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced on Wednesday. A revised list [PDF] of banned imports includes drones "completely built up," "completely knocked down," and "semi knocked down." The ban doesn't apply to drone components …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge


    ... never ends well.

    All that happens is affected countries retaliate in tt-for-tat spats.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Nationalism.

      I think it's unfair to describe this as nationalism. If India is to develop its potential into a world leading economy then it needs to encourage and support the skills required, and also be able to compete with other countries.

      That's not nationalism, any more than the EU science funding, the American investments in battery technologies, etc.

      1. Bitsminer Silver badge

        Re: Nationalism.

        It is protectionism, a subset of nationalism.

        India has free trade agreements with a few countries, including China and South Korea. Unilaterally banning imports of products from these countries probably violates the agreements.

        Perhaps those agreements are now under review.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nationalism.

      When you have a billion-strong consumer base to start with, nationalism isn't all bad.

      I can see the American companies that used to sell drones to India having a different opinion. *LOL*

  2. Ochib

    obvious loophole

    Just fly the drones in using a drone

  3. imanidiot Silver badge

    "Indian drone-makers are currently developing the nation's first heavy lift drones – machines capable of carrying up to 150kg of cargo up to 150km. Many of India's roads are infamously underdeveloped, so a cargo drone could slash delivery times, making e-commerce more mainstream and more accessible to rural areas."

    Improving roads might be more expensive and slower in the short term, but long term roads allow moving far higher loads over far longer distances which will be MUCH more beneficial. I REALLY don't see the use case for drones for cargo transport other than maybe for emergency transport of time sensitive items like medication in situations where there are no (good) roads available. They're pointlessly inefficient, can't carry much weight, are imho comparatively dangerous (It's a waiting game for the first "cargo drone killed x persons in crash") and use resources that could be used far more efficiently in other ways.

    heavy lift drones are just as much of a boondoggle as "personal helicopters" and other vertical take-off personal vehicle designs were in the 50s and 60s.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      So what you are saying is that people in remote regions should wait for the roads to be improved, and there's no case to use drones as an interim measure in a country of over 3¼ million km².

      User name checks out.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        You think drones carrying 150kg at a time are a solution for poor communities that are remote enough to not have roads?

        I have a different opinion. Cargo drones are a non-starter. For any situation. So stop wasting money on them and build roads. Because those will actually help people.

        1. DJO Silver badge

          I think it is an excellent interim solution until the roads get built which considering the land area in India is an Sisyphean task.

        2. Aitor 1


          Roads need maintenance!!

        3. DJO Silver badge

          So what you are saying is that people in remote areas which do not have roads yet should just die if they are ill?

          So no drone should be allowed to deliver medicine to them.

          Do you have the slightest idea how long it would take and how much it would cost to connect every settlement in India to the road network with fully metalled roads, including villages dotted around the Himalayas and other equally inaccessible regions. Well from your response obviously not.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Where am I saying they should not have drones at all? Or that I forbid them from having them?But delivering medication doesn't need 150 kg load capacity. Nor is it a very good use case because the reality is that the situation where a doctor can make it to a village AND need medication stat AND there being a drone equipped medical facility near enough is not that common and getting the patient to the medical facility through whatever means available is the more likely chosen solution.

            As to all the other comments above. ANY sort of road is better than no road at all. A very basic unpaved road is not ideal if you're in a hurry but it's a start. You can start improving from there.

            So let me ask you this: How are those poor communities without roads going to pay for (the rental of) those cargo drones? How else is it going to get funded? What are they actually going to use them for outside of the single proposed "emergency medication transport" use-case? What good is even 10 flights a day of one of these drones if a rudimentary road and a 4x4 truck is going to beat that volume and weight of cargo in a single trip per day? What good is a cargo drone in the monsoon season when they very likely won't be able to fly for days on end because of heavy rain? Is investing in the development, building and use of these drones really going to be better use of the funds and really going to be a better solution than bringing (even limited capability) roads to a some villages?

            Drones might work for "we need it right now and cannot wait" scenarios. For everything else you need roads. And if it's solely for "we need it there right now" scenarios purposefully putting "not-invented-here" syndrome into law is stupid.

            1. DJO Silver badge

              Where am I saying they should not have drones at all?

              Here: "Cargo drones are a non-starter. For any situation"

              They have roads, they may have medical professionals, what they won't have is a stock of refrigerated medicine which would never survive the arduous road journey. (That will still apply when every village has a super new road in and out - the long winding journey by road will still take too long for remote high altitude settlements, a drone can cover the same distance in a fraction of the time)

              Just because they are looking at 150kg drones as the upper limit does not mean it is also the lower limit, for most medicines a 5 or 10kg payload limit would be adequate.

              As for cost, well who is going to pay the several trillion USD it would cost to put metalled roads to every community? - A handful of drones would cost nothing in comparison. One emergency helicopter trip would cost more than buying and supporting a drone for it's expected lifespan of a few years.

              You continue to overlook the scale of India, it has a land area more than 12 times that of GB and vertically it goes from below sea level to altitudes that make Mount Snowdon look like an anthill. Upgrading millions of tracks and dirt roads to fully metalled roads is a ludicrous proposition without unlimited funds and unlimited time.

            2. DJO Silver badge

              In Africa it costs 2.5 million USD to build 1 km of metalled single carriageway road, I have no reason to expect the cost to be significantly different in India.

              Maintenance is another 1,000 to 5,000 USD per annum per km.

              The cost of 1km of road would provide a dozen villages with drones and full support and have a few hundred thousand USD left over.

              The cost of upgrading the existing dirt track network to fully metalled roads would never be sensible expenditure from a cost/benefit point of view - spending $50m to connect a couple of villages 20km apart for maybe 250 people makes zero economic sense.

            3. DJO Silver badge


              From the above: "Rwanda’s terrain is challenging: a drone might reach a rural hospital in 20 minutes when it would take four hours by road"

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            150kg load carrying capacity is also quite enough to serve as an emergency air ambulance. :)

  4. adam 40 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    About Time!

    Drone stories have been moved from "EDGE + IoT" and into an appropriate category.

  5. Whitter

    IP concerns

    There's quite a lot of IP in drone design and manufacture. How will India cope with that?

    1. Aitor 1

      Re: IP concerns

      Obvious: ignore ip for local manufacturing, particularly chinese ip.

      I don't see it having a big success.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone's forgotten to update the WTO Quantitative restrictions database

    India's section in the "WTO Market Access - Quantitative restrictions" database, hasn't been touched since: 29 Sep 2021, was hoping to find the stated justification.

    Failing to post an advanced copy of the restrictions, along with a justification, to the WTO site, may in itself be enough for a member state to challenge the prohibition, and keep many a lawyer happy for years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Someone's forgotten to update the WTO Quantitative restrictions database

      I seem to recall fairly recent American unjustified Aluminum, Steel, Auto, and other tariffs and roadbloacks to other Canadian imports only a couple of short years ago.

      Even now, under a new President, the ever nagging beef-labelling issue that has been smacked down by the tribunals time and time again keeps rearing its head south of the border, as the Americans keep trying to lock out Canadian beef from their market, all the while squealing their demands for free access to our markets. And the perpetual pain of the lumber industry catterwauling.

      Americans love to compete. On your turf. But they'll far from politely bar you from their own. It is very much a one way street, as you can see from global trade valuation charts over the decades. Their is this money inhaling profiteering sucking sound from south of the border.

      Unfortunately, the same is largely true of every nation. They're all very public about wanting trade, while crossing their fingers behind their backs and muttering "but only if it is to OUR benefit!"

  7. Aussie Doc


    "...based on a premise of trust, self-certification and non-intrusive monitoring." ®

    That always seem to work well, doesn't it.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      Beat me to it almost word for word. Not that I'd have used the joke icon (this one's personal to you).

  8. Raj

    Nothing new here

    Shocking expose: Countries shape trade terms to suit their interests! News at 11!

    Does your nation's trade policy have anything like 'preferential duty', 'special 301', 'rules of origin', etc, you're doing the same thing. Guess what - US, UK, EU all do.

    "Those are permitted by WTO" ? Yeah that's a fundamentalist's view - "it's in The Book, you must believe!" Any document is the creation of the power equation of its time - the ones most strenuously backing it will be those who wish to 'freeze' the power structure at that time.

    That's why you'll always see India and other rising powers constantly showing up in WTO complaints lists. It's literally in their interest to attack the existing order continuously and use it to further their own interests.

    And the target here is China. If you're so opposed to this, go ahead and speak openly of your support of China - the same China that's busy stealing every tech and IP it can from you. Every rising power will do its darnedest to steal IP and technology. Been the same since long before the industrial age.

    The Indian approach here is simple - plan in secrecy, ensure the decks are ready to invest heavily. Announce policy curtailing imports, immediate start to local ecosystem. Over the next 2-5 years China can take it to WTO where the Indian goal is to stall over every possible thing while the market is saturated with domestic production. Pay the token fine and enjoy the benefit of having replaced imports.

    Cynical ? Sure, whatever. You're naive if you think this isn't how the game hasn't always been played.

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