Drone firms eye scale, quality in race to skies Apextalk

Drone service providers and manufacturers in India are witnessing a sustained increase in demand from domestic as well as international markets, and are focussing on affordable but quality products to beat global peers, said experts.

Most homegrown companies are innovating even as they face challenges such as achieving scale and bringing down import of components, they added.

“The industry is on a high growth path. Broadly, we need to keep up with demand and we need to ensure we are building the right quality that will allow users to deploy the system in diverse environmental conditions in our country,” said Ankit Mehta, co-founder and chief executive officer of drone manufacturer ideaForge.

Mumbai-based ideaForge is second drone firm to file for an initial public offering apart from DroneAcharya Aerial Innovations Ltd, which is backed by ace investor Shankar Sharma. Backed by Qualcomm, Infosys and Florintree Capital Partners, ideaForge expects demand to continue on the back of government’s push to make India a global hub for drones by 2030 and in view of the geopolitical situation.

With increasing demand from foreign countries it has already set up a subsidiary in US. “One of our strategies is to go to the international market and pitch our products. We have production facility in India. Progressively, it (production units abroad) will depend on the need of the global markets,” Mehta added.

Recently, the sector has benefitted from the civil aviation ministry’s production-linked incentive scheme for drone sector. While initial outlay for FY21-22 was 16 crore, government has disbursed 30 crore so far, and has approved 12 out of the over 50 companies who have submitted applications to enrol under the scheme.

Out of the total outlay, around 60% was received by ideaForge alone, while the remaining amount was shared by Aarav Unmanned Systems, Sagar Defence Raphe mPhibir and Throttle Aerospace.

“Based on this, we will have a very large and tall claim on next year’s PLI scheme from industry’s side. Now, when number of drones is increasing in air space and drones need to fly alongside manned aircraft, there is need to think about drone traffic management through UTM (unmanned aircraft system traffic management) policy,” said Smit Shah, president of Drone Federation of India.

According to industry estimates, nearly 60,000 drones operate in India including 20,000-30,000 recreational devices.

BotLab Dynamics, has been the leader in providing drone as a service for entertainment. “There is a growing interest in such drone swarm light shows. We have received inquires from several countries and state governments,” Sarita Ahlawat, co-founder BotLab Dynamics, said.

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