‘Drone Didi’—the Entrepreneurship Development Program tailored for women in Himachal Pradesh and beyond, by IIT Mandi iHub, a cutting-edge Technology Innovation Hub specialising in Human-Computer Interaction, with a specific focus on Agri Drone Applications, has received recognition from the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). The project serves not only as a skill development endeavour but also as a robust platform for women to establish businesses in the burgeoning field of drone technology.
Executed with support from the Agriculture Skill Council of India, the first batch of the Drone Didi program is currently underway, with a total of 20 female students at the IIT Mandi campus 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 (OTJ) opportunities to the Drone Didis.
As part of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 4.0, participants in the Drone Didi program receive comprehensive training and support, including:
- Theoretical and Practical training on Drone flying leading to securing Remote Pilot Licenses
- Training on Agricultural Drone Applications like crop pesticide spraying, monitoring field conditions, plant health, seeding, and pollination
- Providing capacity building support in entrepreneurship
- Providing Mentorship support and enabling market/credit linkages
Speaking about the initiative, CEO of IIT Mandi iHub, said, ” ‘Drone Didi’ is more than just a skill development program; it is a catalyst for change, empowering women to become leaders in technology and entrepreneurship. This project is a testament to our commitment to inclusive growth and aligns with our vision of creating a skilled, self-reliant India. We aim to take this project to a national level soon.”
On January 24, 2024, representatives from IIT Mandi iHub, including Somjit Amrit, CEO, IIT Mandi iHub, and Shashi Bala, a beneficiary of the Drone Didi program, presented the success of this initiative to the President of India, Smt. Droupadi Murmu, at the inauguration ceremony of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Government of India’s ‘Kaushal Bhavan’ in New Delhi. Union Minister for Education and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Dharmendra Pradhan, and the Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajeev Chandrasekhar were present.
Sharing her experience, Ms. Shashi Bala, a beneficiary of IIT Mandi iHub’s Drone Didi program, said, “I have a background in BSc (Agriculture) and have been seeking a different and exciting career path in Agriculture. That is when I learned about the Drone Didi program offered by IIT Mandi iHub. After understanding the benefits of this girls-only residential program, I decided to join. I am pleased with what I have learned so far in this program, such as drone applications, maintenance, DGCA guidelines, Agri-drone applications, business skills, and soft skills. I also have a Mentor who is a sounding board for me and gives me full support in pursuing my aspirations.”
Highlighting Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture through Drone Automation, President Murmu, said, “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.”