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3 Idiot’s Drone catches the eye at India Engineering Sourcing Show in Mumbai

Mumbai: December 17,2014

The 4th Edition of the India Engineering Sourcing Show in Mumbai, that began on Tuesday with participation of over 400 engineering companies, has been attracting a large number of visitors.  While there are innumerable engineering products on display at the Expo, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or Drone built by Navi Mumbai based Idea Forge Technologies catches the attention.  Its claim to fame is that it played a cameo in Amir Khan’s super hit film  ‘3 Idiots’ detecting the tragic suicide of Joy Lobo.  Mumbaikars also had a brush with the drones when earlier this year, Fancesco Pizzeria in Mumbai made waves when it put up the video of their successful pilot of a  pizza delivery using an UAV. 

 

Idea Forge’s UAV, which is called NETRA is into some serious business though.  Developed in collaboration with the Defence Research & Development Organization, DRDO, NETRA has been used extensively by the armed forces, paramilitary forces and other security agencies.  It partnered with the National Disaster Response Force and played a crucial role in identifying survivors and assessing damage during the Uttarakhand floods last year. It was also deployed by the Gujarat government during the 2013 Bhuj floods.  Their other clients include the National Security Guard, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Delhi Police among others.

 

NETRA is a completely autonomus UAV, which can be launched from a small clearing by the road side and made to fly over the area of interest upto 400 meters.  Fitted with GPS and powerful sensors, it can fly on its own and return to the home base after completing the mission. It boasts of having the smallest auto-pilot in the world.  During its flight, the UAV sends continuous real time video of every movement on the ground.  Its Vertical Take Off & Landing, VTOL mechanism makes it extremely user friendly.

 

Idea Forge was started by 5 IIT-Bombay graduates way back in 2008. Ankit Mehta, Vipul Joshi,  Ashish Bhat, Amardeep Singh and Rahul Singh belonged to different batches but were driven by one passion - robotics.  Idea Forge got a $ 1 million funding from the Technology Development Board of India, and an angel investor later pumped in another $ 100,000.

 

Though, high on ideas, the IIT technocrats are conservative in their marketing approach.  Idea Forge works mainly with government, which makes its operations simpler, as required permissions are usually taken care of. “We are still some distance away from commercial usage of drones, although, pizza delivery etc, serve as great marketing gimmicks” says one of the partners.  They are also tight lipped about the price, citing confidentiality clauses, even as market estimates put the cost of UAVs at Rs 25 lakhs upwards.

 

Drones have multi-faceted applications.  Besides surveillance, they can be effectively used for aerial cinematography replacing costly helicopter shooting, crowd management during festivals and fairs, aerial photography of high rise buildings,  event supervision and lately even in wildlife management.

 

Even thought the opportunity looks attractive, it is not easy doing the business.  Image resolution is still not as sharp as one would like them to be. Funding continues to be a perennial problem as most of the investors have no clue about the benefits of drones, other than publicity stunts pulled off by the likes of Amazon or Fancesco Pizzeria. 

 

There are 900 drone manufacturers in China and over 200 in the USA.  Low end Chinese drones can be bought for less than Rs 1 lakhs, which can be used for aerial photography of a wedding procession.  In comparison India has only 6-7 manufacturers of Drone, most of which are technology start-ups. Developing relevant products and facing up the international competition will be the biggest challenge.

 

(The 4th Edition of India Engineering Sourcing Show, organized by the EEPC India in association with the Ministry of Commerce & Industry is being held at the Bombay Exhibition Centre, Western Express Highway, Goregaon (E), Mumbai.  It will be on till December 18, 2014).

 

PIB Mum | MD

 
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