Globally, the manner in which the armaments industry is transforming is evident from the manner in which the on-going Russia-Ukraine war is being fought. More and more reports convey that both nations are trying to save on their traditional weapons like missiles, bombs aircrafts and tanks and instead using more and more drones, armed with weapons, bombs and missiles. This perhaps points to the emerging war scenario in any country or writing a new war paradigm of the future.
In addition, many arms producing companies and countries, both are increasing their drones manufacturing capacity, besides introducing newer versions of battle-ready drones. The stress on using drones in the latest fighting strategy is due to the fact that while the drones help you in delivering a precise result, it also helps countries to save on the precious human lives involved in any other form of military engagement.
The burgeoning Indian defence sector, particularly the private sector one is also focussing its attention to this development and many companies are focussing their activities single-purposely on increasing country’s drone making capacity.
Indian Drone industry
One new entrant in this sector, NeoSky India Ltd, a subsidiary of RattanIndia Enterprises Limited is leading the path with its 360° Drone-as-a-Product and Drone-as-a-Services portfolio. With a series of product launches in the past two months, NeoSky has big plans to emerge as a leading drone manufacturer and exporter of the country.
Sarath Chandra Gudlavalleti, Chief Executive Officer, NeoSky India believes that this is a sunrise industry with full support from the government, the GoI came out with liberalised Drone Manufacturing Rules in 2021. It gives a positive momentum to the Indian drone start-up ecosystem.
This years’ Budget also included many support measures for the drones and drone-component manufacturers. The ecosystem is promising and up-and-coming with a resolve to put India on the international map as the leading drone manufacturer.
NeoSky has developed drones for multiple usages like land mapping, infrastructure mapping, surveillance, logistics, and agriculture. Currently it is testing drones developed for the Ministry of Defence. With anti-drones systems also coming up in the picture, the company is also looking at related drone manufacturing & services.
Mr Gudlavalleti believes that given the varied and vast demography of the country, the commercial drones targeted at infrastructure and agriculture segments are a great business opportunity. To become more robust in its drone manufacturing capacities, NeoSky has recently acquired a majority stake in Bengaluru-based Throttle Aerospace Systems (TAS) which was started in 2016 by an entrepreneur who was earlier associated with Boeing Aerospace.
NeoSky developed drones have multiple usages like land mapping, infrastructure mapping, movement and logistics surveillance, and agriculture activities. With Throttle now being part of NeoSky, it has added seven to eight years’ expertise to its drone manufacturing capacity.
The Union Budget 22-23 laid focus on employment of Kissan Drones for crop assessment digitalisation of land records, spraying of pesticides and nutrients. There has been a major push for modern and smart agriculture and providing farmers with the latest technology to improve supply chain.
For Indian drone manufacturers, the time is spot-on to imbibe the latest development in the industry and develop products, which are competitive globally. Additionally the burgeoning software industry is India can also play a key role in progress of drone manufacturing in the country.
Added to this is the expertise of the Indian electronics industry. The next decade holds the true potential for drone manufacturing, if the Indian manufacturers are able to grab the opportunity then the global market will surely start looking up to India for its drone needs catering to different sectors.
Indian Drone Industry’s Progress
There are multiple key factors contributing to the growth of drone manufacturing in India. The real momentum started in 2021 with additional support coming in from the government in addition to the sector gaining sustained growth and progress during the last decade. More supportive policies from the government will be the key to the anticipated exponential growth of this sector.
The PSUs and other consumer segments including state governments have recognised the utility of drones and thus more and more and more drones are being deployed for multiple purposes.
Over the last year or so, the private sector has contributed significantly to the industry by starting new ventures. Today, players in oil and gas, infrastructure, security services and warehousing are becoming aware of and using drones for multiple roles. Another impetus is coming in the form of investment. Fresh investment is flowing to the drone industry in India, thus enabling it to spend more on R&D and innovation enabling it to offer more sophisticated and price competitive products across the spectrum.
The whole eco-system of educated and skilled manpower is also very necessary to build the drone network and fortunately India has a pool of trained software and electronics engineers, who have contributed a lot to make this nascent industry transform into a real pioneer.
Another positive trend is that qualified people from other industries are also stepping-in to join this sunrise industry and they bring their expertise from other sectors, which could be utilised to develop a diverse range of new products.
Drones for the armed forces
Added to this is the country’s defence sector, which is an important contributor to the progress of the industry. Additionally, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Home Affairs could give further boost to the industry, once they agree upon how they are ready to utilise the drone capability of the country. The future looks great and several new and big trends are already evident.
Mr Gudlavalleti believes that every sunrise industry has to face some initial hiccups, but your tenacity and expertise to find these issues at an early stage and find a solution to them holds the key to your company’s and industry’s growth collaboratively.
Beyond defence, NeoSky has identified potential use of its drones in various other sectors like petroleum industry, agriculture and logistics sectors, besides land mapping.
Currently, the defence sector is set on modernisation at a very ambitious scale, as it is the need of the hour. A lot of measures have been taken across the entire spectrum of modernisation of the Indian armed forces and drones play a very important and pivotal role as part of that strategy. Keeping in view the current demands, TAS and NeoSky have developed a drone called TACT, in addition to NIMBLE – which is a low end and one of the most affordable surveillance products in the market and an important requirement by the armed forces.
To help the armed forces in their logistical requirements, NeoSky has developed a drone named Medcopter, which can pickup payloads from the base to be delivered to the forward posts, often located in a harsh terrain.
In addition, NeoSky is also focussing on anti-done technology, part of its current portfolio, comprising of drones, logistics and anti-drones.
Further, NeoSky is fulfilling the Make in India and Atmanirbhar projects of PM Modi, by developing a product base, which is completely indigenised, in addition to using the indigenous software skills. The company is confident of delivering sophisticated products in a competitive price band, in order to garner a share of the global market in addition to becoming a secured supplier to the country’s armed forces.