We are focused on building AI, ML modules on our drones
Published on : Monday 01-08-2022
Agnishwar Jayaprakash, CEO and Founder, Garuda Aerospace.
What was the inspiration behind Garuda Aerospace? How did it begin? What kind of R&D?
I love travelling and have travelled the world representing India and had a lot of exposure to various businesses and cultures. As an alumnus of the Harvard Business School, also having served in the UN under then Assistant Secretary General, Ms Lakshmi Puri, made me understand that emerging technologies like drones can also play a huge role in disrupting multibillion dollar sectors in developing countries like India. With India being home to the largest youth population, I developed an idea of the potential of drone tech and that's how Garuda Aerospace was born.
Founded in 2015 with a team of 5, Garuda has scaled to a 200-member team having the largest drone fleet in India with over 300 drones and 500 pilots operating in 26 cities. We have served over 750 clients, and are currently the most valuable drone startup in India having also expanded globally in Malaysia, Africa and South America. A common misconception is that drones are used only in cinemas, events and weddings. Garuda Aerospace uses them with a different purpose for mapping, health monitoring, smart city planning, delivery collaboration with Swiggy, and in cases of emergency situations like Covid, floods, etc. Indigenous manufacturing of drones increases efficiency and reduces costs across the supply chain. The first couple of years were spent on R&D and upgrading of products. Prior to 2020, due to stringent laws on drones, there were not many willing to invest in this space. Aggressive deployment of drones for diverse applications in 2019-20 resulted in Garuda Aerospace spearheading a Drone Revolution with a vision of manufacturing 1 lakh Made in India drones. Our goals are to cement the market dominance on 2 major multibillion dollar segments – Precision Agri Tech and Industry 4.0, where our R&D will ensure drones are smart and intelligent enough to be customisable and offer ‘Drones as a Service’ (DaaS) model with an intention of increasing efficiency and reducing expenses.
What are the types of drones manufactured, especially from the range and payload perspective?
Garuda Aerospace currently manufactures around 30 different types of drones and offers over 50 types of services such as precision agriculture spray, Industry 4.0 upgradation services, structural damage inspection, warehouse management for Flipkart and Delivery, seed dropping, project monitoring and drone delivery of medicines for hospitals. Garuda Aerospace also designs and manufactures agricultural drones, solar panel cleaning drones, loudspeaker drones, paint spraying drones, delivery drones now enlisted by Swiggy for delivering food in Bangalore and Delhi. Our solar panel cleaning drones were appreciated by Elon Musk on Twitter, which resulted in Garuda raising USD 1 million in Pre-Series A Funding. We are fitting drones with probes, sensors, magnetometers, high powered cameras, sprayers and other payloads to cater diverse applications using drones.
Agriculture is an interesting application area. How does the service operate here in terms of skills and the affordability factor?
Agriculture has always been an interesting area for business. Precision agri spray sector is a USD 3.2 bn industry. Drone regulations of 2020-21 really opened up the sector. Loans and subsidy schemes for drones announced by the central government then came into being. We ensure our agri-drones are capable of a wide array of services, which include precision spraying of pesticides, fertilizers, crop health monitoring, yield measurement and crop loss mitigation. We also intend to launch an Agri Advisory Services app which will provide farmers with inputs on how to improve food crop productivity thereby creating a new green revolution in our country. We also aim to manufacture around 6 lakh drones by 2025. This would be of major help to farmers under the Kisan Drone Initiative. This also will keep them away from life-threatening medical disorders and diseases. Being a one-time cost, it would help in cost reduction and make lives easy for farmers. Garuda Kisan drones equipped with probes and sensors, which will measure the biodiversity in agri-landscapes using artificial intelligence (AI), have already been tested and validated with the accuracy of algorithms. Now, these will be tested in farmers' fields across India, which is home to diverse types of crops, pesticides, insecticides, weedicides, fungicides, fertilizers and organic manure so we will ensure the AI ML component will be tested internally before making it an open resource. We have completed the process of putting the probes and sensors out in the field and results have been very promising. Adding this precision agri technology has been solving the problem for the greater good to reduce crop loss and Garuda Kisan drones have secured orders worth Rs 8800 crore with 3 years exclusivity which is why investors are valuing the company at US $250 million.
Talking of industrial applications, what are the industries that are ripe for deploying drones?
Industry 4.0 upgradation, 2D/3D mapping, project monitoring, inspection for structures, EIA report, Lidar analysis, structural health monitoring, residual life analysis, volumetric analysis, mining exploration, etc., are some of the use cases for industries, factories, plants and facilities to increase efficiency and reduce expenses. Garuda Aerospace will manufacture and deploy different types of drones, payloads and sensors this year for everybody and other companies manufacturing hardware can take the blueprint and add value like an android platform.
Outlining other India-centric innovations, Garuda plans to launch a Garuda App for free to farmers in September by Brand Ambassador MS Dhoni. The Garuda App aims to give digital agri advisory services for 32 crops, including cotton, wheat, vegetables, rice, maize, grapes, oranges, ground nut, chilli, etc., in multiple languages.
While the utility of drones in emergency situations is obvious, what is the potential as a delivery model for ecommerce companies, groceries/food, etc?
We are focused on building AI, ML modules on our drones to make them more intelligent and 100% autonomous. Significant funds will be allocated to integrate the mountains of data captured along with a deep tech analysis platform on cloud for seamless project monitoring even without internet for real time informed decision making. This tech is what makes us the most valuable drone tech firm in India today. Garuda Aerospace builds sustainable, asset light models keeping technology at the forefront, which ensures profitability. When it comes to manufacturing of delivery drones for ecommerce companies and distribution of groceries/food, all the participants are looking to understand how this model will work and working out ways to bring down the cost of delivery. We marked our areas and markets by talking to RWAs, iron out SOPs. Garuda Aerospace drones have 2 different types of Delivery Drones – one which lands and the package can be picked up, with a capacity of 15-20 kg, and another which does not land and lowers the package with a winch, supported by a cable that has a capacity of 7-10 kg. Garuda delivery drones are also equipped with facial recognition software and temperature controlled sturdy payload delivery boxes to keep the packages in good condition and obstacle avoidance systems to ensure stability during flights. Our target is to reach 25 lakh farmers this year and 1 crore farmers next year. The app is working on including satellite imagery and drone data captured during various mapping projects executed in the past for the identification of crop stress, a stress indicator model as every crop needs a particular weather requirement at its different crop growth stages.
As a pioneer in a niche technology area, what kind of ecosystem is Garuda Aerospace creating for successful applications?
Garuda Aerospace has always been viewed by investors as an end-to-end ecosystem player. The drone industry involves 3 major fields which require individual excellence – Hardware, Firmware and Software. Hardware can be commoditised and there is no major differentiating factor when it comes to using high end hardware. The ability to develop software and command hardware of the drone using firmware is the biggest challenge which Garuda has faced and has overcome by investing heavily in R&D.
How automated are the manufacturing facilities at Garuda Aerospace?
Right now, Garuda facilities are 40% automated and drones are 85% automated. We will be looking to bring in more levels of automation into our processes. As we are in the process of raising US $30 million at a US $250 million valuation, we are looking to acquire stakes in a few startups that will support us in the process of making all our functions more automated.
What about the security aspects in drone operations, especially when it comes to sensitive establishments. Are there adequate safeguards?
The drones are equipped with terrain following radar, obstacle avoidance and return to home features, where the drones will not need constant monitoring. Our goals are to build drones which are independent of pilot skill levels. This will involve rapidly evolving AI, ML, and deep tech being integrated into the software, firmware and hardware resulting in product enhancements in the future generations of our drone.
Going forward, how do you see Garuda Aerospace growing in terms of domestic market as well as exports?
Garuda Aerospace is firmly on the path towards the first ever Drone Unicorn Startup in India and Garuda – the Dronicorn is a mission statement that will become a reality in the next 12 months’ time. So in the interest of the constant growth of the drone industry, Garuda Aerospace will be acquiring stakes in many Indian drone startups in the next 3 months. Currently Garuda Aerospace is valued at US $250 million and is raising US $30 million to fuel aggressive global expansion plans.
Hailing from Chennai, India, Agnishwar Jayaprakash is the Founder and CEO at Garuda Aerospace, India's largest drone start-up and an entrepreneur who has been making rapid strides in the Global Changemakers Community. He founded Ignite-India, a revolutionary innovation ecosystem established in over 70,000 Schools and Colleges across India. The ecosystem was recognized by the United Nations as one the Top 10 socio-economic initiatives in 2016. He is a former international swimming champion and an Asian gold medallist.
Over the last 7 years, his advocacy through various initiatives has been instrumental in implementing real time solutions in rural and semi-urban communities. He is a winner of numerous accolades, most notably-Presidential Awards (2015, 2016). He is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School and a second-generation businessman who has taken an active leadership role in the $100 million Agni group across diverse business verticals.
Garuda Aerospace, started in 2015, has made a significant mark in the Drone Start-up ecosystem. It provides low-cost drone-based solutions and has designed drones for 38 diverse applications which include sanitisation, agriculture spraying, mapping, industries, security, delivery and surveillance. They have the largest drone fleet in India with over 300 drones and 500 pilots operating in 26 cities. Garuda Aerospace has serviced over 750 clients across various verticals including leading MNCs like Tata Group, Jindal, Adani, etc., and are currently the most valuable drone start-up in India having expanded globally in Malaysia, Africa and South America.
Leave a reply: