Brijesh Damodaran is the co-founder & Chief Investment Officer of Auxano, an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in growth-stage businesses spanning across industries. At the company’s helm, Brijesh works closely with the investments team in shortlisting investments for the portfolio. Besides, he actively works with the portfolio companies on building their matrices and supporting their growth, fundraising, and M&A strategies with a sector-agnostic approach. A strategic thinker and a purpose-driven individual, Brijesh completed Chartered Accountancy & graduated from the University of Mumbai. Soon after acquiring his educational intent, Brijesh embarked on his professional journey in the corporate world, working in the Oil&Gas space, telecom and Mortgage Guaranty space, serving in various roles in Accounts, Finance, Marcom & compliance in Fortune 500 companies.
From the fringes to the main stage – the evolution of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle ( UAV ) more popularly known as drones, is the thing. How can one forget the early drone which was showcased in the Bollywood movie- ‘ 3 idiots’ and the ubiquitous use during marriage festivities?
Today it’s more than a plaything or an object of curiosity. Its application is being used in real-time in areas of defence, mining, roads, land records, farming, healthcare, to name a few.
In 2017, Auxano identified the emerging megatrends, in line with its thesis and wet its beak by a small investment in Aarav Unmanned Systems ( AuS)
India today has aspirations and the new Drone policy framed by the Government of India has aspirations to make India the drone hub of the world.
In line with this, in May ‘2022, the first ever Drone festival was inaugurated in May’22 by the Prime Minister of India, reflecting the ‘walk the talk’ approach and seriousness with which this sector is being addressed.
Let’s take a deep dive into it -.
- In late’ 2021, more than 90% of Indian airspace was opened up for drones flying upto 400 feet. This was a major roadblock and a common request being put forth by the drone manufacturers and users .
- With this out of the block, in early 2022, the import of drones was restricted, giving a philip to the Atma Nirbhar program , being advocated by the Government of India.
- The need for a drone pilot license was also abolished, making the use of drones more accessible.
- And to propagate the use of the drone in the farmer community, the Farmers Producers Organization ( FPO) can receive upto 75% subsidy for the kisan drones
Let’s now understand how the drones are shaping up in improving the way things are being currently done
Document for land properties in rural areas is an area which had ambiguity and legal issues, many times while buying/selling the same. SVAMITVA ( Survey of Villages Abadi & Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) was initiated by the Government of India in Apr ’20 . The aim was to provide rural people with the right to document their land, which gave them the proper legal papers, established an ownership title and solved many legal hassles. This also ensured the monetization of the properties enabling them to use the same for taking loans and other benefits.
This was an early fillip to the nascent drone industry and the startups in the space have risen to the occasion to implement the same. This also gave confidence to the policymakers in the ability of the local drone companies in the implementation of the scheme.
Having got the acceptance from the farmers and the ability of the domestic players to deliver, a liberalized drone policy was announced in 2022.
Top sectors driving widespread drone adoption
Drones have added another dimension to the military. Surveillance and attacks at the enemy or hostile territories can be carried out without involving human personnel or large aircrafts. This will reduce the cost and also minimize the loss of human personnel.
Surveys & Mapping
The traditional mode of manual data collection has a typical cost of upwards of Rs. 10,000 per sq.km. With drones, besides precision & accuracy, the cost can be reduced by more than 50% per sq.km.
Road Construction & Monitoring
National Highways Authority of India ( NHAI) has made use of drones mandatory for monthly video recording of the projects at various stages of development, construction, operation and maintenance.
Will this mean better roads for the commuters…. Hope so
In this sector, drones are used to conduct thorough and critical inspections of construction sites. Engineers can create a comprehensive report of damages for compliance purposes by using drones, which will equip the repair team and resolve the issue immediately. An AI-powered drone could detect the delamination and cracks in nuts, bolts, concrete, connecting points in weight-bearing areas, etc. Supervisors can also use drones to ensure supervision of the site without the need to visit each area in person.
In accordance with Indian regulations, mine inspectors must use drones to inspect and report on mine sites. Equipped with an RGB camera and scanner, they can detect any anomaly and capture data reports. The reason for this initiative is to reduce audit mismatch and theft . In the scenarios of rescue operations, drones use remotely sensed imagery to collect ground data, which helps officials to send rescue objects to dangerous or unreachable sites.
Executing healthcare services in less time has always been the goal of this industry. Fortunately, drones can make it happen by enabling quicker and less expensive delivery of biomedical samples to clinics set at a distance. It can also address patients’ urgent needs, including delivery of vaccines, medicines, antivenin, etc., within the local areas. For a country the size and terrain of India, drones can be used to deliver at inhospitable terrains too .
The surge in drone startups, along with a thriving manufacturing and the evolving concept of Drone -as -a- service ( DAAS) is only going to encourage investments into the sector. DAAS as an evolving concept has 2 verticals – Hardware & Software. With competition brewing and Corporates entering in the hardware space, the software and intelligence space remains the forte of the start-ups. Hardware will see cost decline with increasing players and little differentiation while the software space will become pricey given the time and projects undertaken by the companies. These factors remain the key to build the Machine Learning & Intelligence Layer which remain the intellectual property and the differentiator amongst the industry incumbents. This could also increase the interest of newer entrants into the space and enable India to be the drone hub of the world.