Chennai-based drone startup Garuda Aerospace Pvt Ltd on June 22 announced that it has teamed up with Malaysia-based HiiLSE Global Sdn Bhd (HiiLSE Drones) to set up a 2.42 hectares drone factory in Malaysia with an investment of Rs 115 crore.
Speaking with The Indian Express, Agnishwar Jayaprakash, founder and CEO of Garuda Aerospace, said that the true potential of drone technology is yet to be tapped. “We are still only looking at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to drone applications and Garuda Aerospace was founded with a vision of disrupting multi-billion dollar business sectors using drone tech,” he said.
The startup recently deployed white knight delivery drones in Assam to support the state disaster management department’s rescue efforts amid the ongoing floods, Jayaprakash said.
“5G-integrated drones will enable connectivity like never before and Garuda is focused on building an asset light model to facilitate such connectivity in rural areas,” Jayaprakash added. In February this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched ‘Kisan Drone Yatra’, a project by Garuda Aerospace that sent 100 drones to various locations in the country to apply pesticides on farms. “Once 5G is integrated, our Kisan drones will essentially become supercomputers in villages and rural India will finally have equal opportunities with respect to connectivity,” Jayaprakash said.
The company manufactures 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, seed dropping, solar panel cleaning, project monitoring, drone delivery of medicines for hospitals and drone delivery of packages for food.
Former Indian cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni had recently invested in Garuda Aerospace and was roped in as its brand ambassador.
Elaborating on whether the company will get into the defence sector, Jayaprakash said that Garuda Aerospace has been developing armed tactical drones, anti drones, long range surveillance UAVs, weaponised drones, tethered drones for establishing communication and payload capacity drones to deliver supplies to troops. “These have all been developed indigenously by Garuda Aerospace for the Indian defence forces in only the last couple of years,” Jayaprakash said, adding that the company has demonstrated its capabilities to various defence forces.
“We are currently in talks with leading aerospace and defence contractors who are looking for Indian manufacturers that are capable of offset manufacturing. Exciting news will be announced in the next 3 weeks,” he added.
Recently, India banned the import of drones, a move that is likely to benefit Indian drone companies. “This will spur a lot of Indian drone startups and we are now seeing over 250 startups flourishing in the Indian drone ecosystem. Now we have the time and bandwidth to build high quality drone tech and offer solutions at a competitive fair price without having to worry about an advanced foreign drone illegally imported, monopolising the market by undercutting the price of drone or drone services rendered,” Jayaprakash said.
Funding and financing is a major challenge that India needs to overcome and we need to catch up in terms of strengthening our supply chain with respect to drone manufacturing, Jayaprakash said, adding that Garuda Aerospace is planning to acquire a stake in “many Indian drone startups in the next three months”.
Garuda Aerospace, he said, was firmly on the path of becoming the first-ever drone unicorn startup in India.