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Special Content


Issue no 31, 28 Oct - 03 Nov 2023

Revolutionising India:

The Robotics Renaissance

EN Team

 

In the everevolving landscape of technology and innovation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has long dominated the spotlight. Building upon the advancements made so far and steering India towards a new era of technological advancement, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) intends to enact a National Strategy for Robotics.

 

MEITy's Draft National Strategy for Robotics is more than just a new initiative; it's a visionary plan that sets India on a trajectory to become a global leader in robotics by 2030. This strategy builds upon the framework of "Make in India 2.0," identifying robotics as one of the 27 sub-sectors that can bolster India's integration into the global value chain.

The draft policy proposes setting up a robust institutional framework to ensure the effective execution of this visionary plan. It seeks to unite all relevant stakeholders, promising to drive innovation, development, deployment, and widespread adoption of robotics technology throughout India.

By capitalising on the momentum generated by INDIAai, the draft National Robotics Policy aims to propel India to global leadership in robotics. INDIAai laid the groundwork, and the policy takes the baton, fostering an environment where robotics can flourish.

Furthermore, YUVAai, the youth-oriented program under INDIAai, is pivotal. The draft policy leverages this foundation by empowering the younger generation with the skills needed to excel in robotics. It's an investment in India's future innovators, ensuring they're well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities presented by the world of robotics.

In a nutshell, the National Robotics Policy unites INDIAai's vision with YUVAai's empowerment, creating a harmonious ecosystem where robotics takes center stage.

What necessitates robotic intervention for national progress?: Being a multifaceted technology, that has ushered in transformation across an array of industries and domains that contribute to economic advancements, AI is now being explored for its revolutionary potential in the sectors of manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and national security. The National Strategy on Robotics, thus, emerges as a valuable step in the path of developing strategies and initiatives to materialise this vision. Dubbed the National Robotics Mission, this will help implement robotics as a large-scale catalyst to fuel socio-economic outcomes in the nation.

1.      Manufacturing: Having proven its indispensability in India's economic growth, the manufacturing sector is one of the primary areas that can draw from the potential of Artificial Intelligence. The Make in India programme, which is the country's flagship manufacturing enterprise, harbours innovation and investment. Furthermore, it draws attention to in-house manufacturing and design, highlighting India's competence in building state-of-the-art infrastructure.

However, to mitigate certain challenges on the way, the deployment of robotics in the sector is crucial. From the standpoint of production aspects such as quality control, advanced mechanization can go a long way in ensuring premium product quality and instituting a standard process to keep up with consistency in the same. An additional aspect is logistics and warehousing, in which robotics intervention can assist human resources with essential facilities such as handling diverse orders and minimizing safety hazards that could be caused by lifting heavy loads. With the effective use of technologies such as Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR), through cutting-edge computing technologies and sensors, inventory management activities such as picking, packaging, transiting, etc. can be optimized.

2.      Healthcare: It is believed that India will see a rise in the healthcare sector with a ballpark of $50 billion by the year 2025. To match this growth stride by stride, the Central Government has also increased its Government Health Expenditure in the Total Health Expenditure, i.e., from 29% in 2014-15 to 41.4% in 2019-20. The dawn of the pandemic saw several obstructions surfacing in the health sector. With an increasing need to cater to the ageing population and tackle unprecedented health crises in the future, the government has prioritized the involvement of robotics to make way for effective, accessible and affordable healthcare.

The role of robots can vary from carrying out high-risk jobs such as disinfecting hospital areas by utilising Ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light or Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour (HPV). This process can be further augmented through Machine Learning which can direct the robots and streamline their programmed actions. Adding to this, the risk of maternal and neonatal sepsis can be curbed with this implementation. AI assistance can also help in effective monitoring of the patient's progress. With AI-enabled vision, the patient's vital signs can be measured with a contactless approach. The contribution of robotics in healthcare extends further to services like reducing the workloads of medical staff by taking care of medicine vending and parameter monitoring. India is already ahead in its path to facilitating robot-assisted surgeries, with more than 12,800 surgeries already performed.

3.      Agriculture: The Indian economy depends heavily on agriculture. Being the largest employment sector in India, agriculture accounts for 18.8% Gross Value Added of the country. In India, the contribution of the agriculture sector is vital for the economy. Largely driven by rice and wheat, grain production has seen a massive rise, along with growth in associated sectors including livestock, dairying, and fisheries. However, the diversity of mechanization and irrigation deeply influences the crop output. Several factors, such as inadequate access to irrigation and technology, cause inconsistencies in productivity. A number of occupational hazards pose huge risks for farmers. Excess vibrations emitted by obsolete farming machineries can cause musculoskeletal disorders like joint pain and spine problems. The worry is exacerbated further by the risk of respiratory diseases that farmers are prone to because of pesticides and other chemicals. Hence, modernization of farming practices becomes the need of the hour.

The agronomical sector can benefit from technological assistance in a number of ways. From evaluating essential farming factors such as soil composition, pest pressure, crop maturity, etc., robotics can aid in ushering in safe and effective farming practices. Mechanized tasks such as the real-time monitoring of the rate of crop growth, leaf area index, water stress, etc., can be delegated to robots for more accurate and timely assessments. Further, onboarding robots in the farming process can also prove effective in early detection of crop diseases or pest attacks. Apart from this, robots can be useful in activities such as spraying fertilizers, with an emphasis on target spraying instead of the conventional method of uniform spraying. Robotic sprayers enable selective spraying using intelligent algorithms, which will limit environmental hazards and pesticide resistance.

4.      National Security: In terms of its military expenditure, the defence sector was approximated to be the third largest in the world. With a present value of $122.81 billion, the government has brought in a multitude of initiatives to make India self-sufficient in defence manufacturing and technology. With more than 15,000 km of international borders shared with seven countries across an array of terrains, India is faced with the huge challenge of tackling illegal activities and ensuring safety. With limitations in infrastructure such as observation towers, bunkers, border flood lights, etc., and the challenges faced in keeping abreast of real-time data in terms of matters relating to security, the call for technological intervention is more necessary now than ever.

From assisting in mine detection and mine markings to border surveillance and inspection in off-limit areas of concern, robotics can play a key role in minimizing manual efforts. India deployed its own Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) called Sapper Scout, which is equipped to detect mines and marking mines with the help of an illuminating spray. This can replace the traditional trawl tanks that have become obsolete with the emergence of anti-tank mines. Additionally, AI-based robots can be utilized to enhance Anti Infiltration Obstacle Systems (AIOS) to enhance surveillance and also carry out autonomous intrusion, detection and patrol. Hence, in order to develop a robust and failproof security system, the indispensable role of robotics is evident.

The adage that "the future is AI" is more relevant now than ever. Underscoring the same, the nation is embarking on an ambitious mission to utilize the immense scope of Artificial Intelligence in nation-building while also ensuring the effective, safe and responsible execution of the vision.

Compiled by Induja Tyagi and Kaushikee, EN Team

Source: Inputs from Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) and INDIAai