India embracing drone technology

While there is demand for deployment, many companies are fully designing and making them in the country.

By Author  |  Published: 28th Jan 2018  12:10 amUpdated: 29th Jan 2018  4:13 pm

Hyderabad: India has always been an aggressive developer and adopter of new technologies. This is true even in the case of drones. There are several Indian companies that are currently involved in the making of drones as they are seeing wider applications and use cases across industries.

Major technology companies such as Tech Mahindra are keenly looking at using drones for aircraft inspection to identify defects by augmenting human inspection.

“We are also testing the solution in the solar and wind power sector where manual inspections are either cumbersome or time consuming. We will carry out the proof of concept first. The use cases are being explored. We are exploring usage of thermal cameras to test in wide ranging sectors from renewable energy to agriculture. With the help of thermal cameras, even the health of the cattle in agriculture fields can be tracked,” says Rana Banerjee, principal consultant, Artificial Intelligence, Tech Mahindra.

Multiple applications

Sree Sai Aerotech Innovations managing director Sai Pattabiram told Telangana Today, “We make both drones and drone controllers. We are one of the 18 companies which have received a Department of Science and Technology funding. We are now approached by venture capitalists from the US and Japan. We are looking to raise $1 million to start with. The products that we make can be used in agriculture and mass land surveys. With capabilities in data logging, wireless transmission and positioning, the company has been supplying unmanned aerial vehicles and accessory electronics to multiple users for varied uses such as monitoring large projects, complex machines and for weather forecasting.”

He added, “The patented technology allows the company to use internet of things effectively. The technology is also finding application in driver-less vehicles now. Major tractor making companies are working with Sree Sai to come out with prototypes. Proof of concept is in progress with three tractor companies at present. The technology is suitable for several types of vehicles that can operate driver-less as well as tracking vehicles. Sree Sai is looking at the possibilities of robotic seed planters. We are also working with GPS technology developers for various developers. We are through with R&D phase and are now in the implementation phase. We are expanding our facility in Chennai and constantly exploring new applications.”

In agriculture, micro weather forecasting is important to understand weather patterns to improve yield. More than when to water a field, technology can help where to water. Sree Sai is working with NABARD in horticulture, fruit pulping and cold storage segment. The company is looking at serving agritech hubs in the areas of data collection and is talking to several States at present.

Drones can be used in tracking infrastructure projects as highway development and monitoring pipelines in the oil and gas sectors. The company is looking for service delivery partners across the country. The company is looking at opportunities in Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Hyderabad-based RedBay Technologies is seeing big potential in forestry, agriculture, mining, smart cities and disaster management.

Defence deployment

IdeaForge, a Navi Mumbai-based drone maker, is serving Defence wings. In the commercial space, the company is supplying to power and services sector. NTPC has recently bought drones from the company. The company’s drones are being used for preventive maintenance and survey purposes. The drones are designed, developed and made in India (except the motors).

The company sees potential in tracking power lines so that there are no power outages. Telecom is again quickly adopting to monitor telecom towers to avoid rusting and oversee cabling. The ten-year old company has sold around 600 drones already, with Defence consuming bulk of it. The company remains a dominant supplier to the Indian defence. Products that are custom built cost anywhere between Rs 8-80 lakh depending on user requirement. Globally, drones are a huge market and overseas opportunities are immense however there are regulatory entry barriers.

Shrikant Thakker, Industrial and Commercial Business, IdeaForge Technology, “With regulations easing in next two months, we see abundant opportunities. On the defence front, there has been significant jump in the last three years for border surveillance purposes. Internal security is also a major application with Border Security Force. There are also opportunities opening up in mining, while application in energy and transportation sector will take some time. We could triple our order book in the next three years. Regulations should match up the demand that is seen in the country. There is enough demand. Smart cities are also opening up new avenues. We have already supplied drones for Nagpur.”

He added, “Hyderabad has many geospatial firms and we could be opening our office in the city to cater the region’s needs. Outside India, we will look at Middle East and Africa after a year’s time.”