General Aeronautics (GA) will be at the forefront of drone technology in India across applications and catalyse R&D. India’s nascent drone industry has been in recent focus particularly with its role in agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture also recently […]
India’s nascent drone industry has been in recent focus particularly with its role in agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture also recently got the DGCA nod to use drones for yield estimation in 100 districts. General Aeronautics (GA) will be at the forefront of drone technology in India across applications and catalyse R&D. The company which is a specialist in Drones for precision agriculture has recently announced a Rs 65 million pre-series `A’ financing led by Mela Ventures. With this investment, the company has plans to expand its go-to market programmes and will continue to invest in the areas of high reliability and efficient spraying, operational support including training Drone Pilots. The company was started by the country’s acclaimed aircraft designer Padma Sri awardee Dr Kota Harinarayana and Abhishek Burman along with Dr Anutosh Moitra & Air Cmde P K Choudhary (Retd.). The plan is to bring the best of the aircraft design practices to the field of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems and to also provide cost-effective, reliable and efficient drone systems which will help in addressing agricultural and other societal needs.
Incubated at the Society for Innovation and Development (SID), the Entrepreneurship Cell of Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, it has developed indigenous Drone Solution with a unique spray capability. There is also a great potential to improve spray efficiency multi-folds.
Abhishek Burman, Founder Director and CEO, General Aeronautics, talks about the importance of drones in civilian roles and other related issues with Huma Siddiqui.
Following are excerpts:
What is the focus of General Aeronautics in the UAV and Drone space?
General Aeronautics’ mission is to build unmanned aerial vehicles to bring about societal change, predominantly in the areas of Agriculture, Emergency Medical Response and Defence. On the agriculture side we have indigenously built Drone based Spray technology that is efficient in controlling pests and diseases, while ensuring optimal resource utilisation. While supporting higher yields, this approach also ensures human and environmental protection. The company has also built a fixed wing drone solution to support Emergency Medical response. A big factor that causes death in road accidents is blood loss; we are working with leading emergency response providers to see if drones can provide medical intervention at the accident site through a medical airdrop, which can be used by a bystander to stop blood loss for the concerned victim.
On the defence side, GA is working with various defence labs and private organisations to provide solutions to complex aeronautical design needs; these can range from High payload UAVs to multi role combat aircrafts.
How is the Drone market in India segmented?
While drones have captured the fascination of consumers for entertainment there has been considerable interest and growth in the commercial drone market in India and globally. The market is slated to grow at a 12 per cent CAGR. In India commercial drone applications have been mainly in Defence, Surveillance and monitoring. We are seeing an increasing interest for Drone usage in the Agriculture and Medical space. These are areas which can drive significant societal impact. Agri Drones can enable sustainable farming while addressing the food shortage concerns that are looming. Similarly in the Medical space there is significant loss of life in accidents that can be addressed through a drone based medical response platform. These are exciting areas and the company is squarely in the middle of developing solutions. While COVID did shift some of the goals we set as a company, it did have a silver lining for the drone industry. COVID caused issues around labour shortage in farms and other industries. It also created concerns with security. This has helped various government authorities appreciate the importance of adopting drone based technology; this in turn should help bringing much needed regulatory changes for drone usage.
Did General Aeronautics play a role in fighting the pandemic? How did drone technology help?
COVID provided General Aeronautics with a unique opportunity to support both multiple state governments. And we took immediate action in addressing hygiene concerns in crowded areas/disease prone locations in major cities through disinfecting drones. It also worked closely with law enforcement authorities to provide drone based surveillance & broadcasting services to ensure social distancing and driving awareness among citizens in various communities.
GA also played a key role in combating recent locust menace; we had deployed multiple drones for about two months in critically affected areas in Rajasthan & UP.
How is General Aeronautics planning to address the global food security issue?
It is estimated that India will have to produce 50 million tonnes of more food in 2030 than it did in 2019, to feed 200 million more people. Indian agriculture yield is significantly lower than global benchmarks. One of the key contributors to the lower yield is poor pest and disease management, which alone contributes to about 15% ~20% crop loss annually amounting to annual loss of US$ 36 billion. This is an area that GA through its Agri Drones can make a significant dent in supporting the food needs of the country.
What are General Aeronautics’ plans with the INR 65 Million pre-series, a funding secured from Mela Ventures?
While the funding is a clear validation of the unique technology GA has built to address the Agri sector, it also confirms our ability to address the cost/performance needs of the small farmer in India. A significant part of the funding will be deployed to create a scalable go-to-market strategy and to build a reliable production ready solution.
How do you compare these with the recent procurement of drones by the Indian army?
We see the recent purchase of drones by the Indian Army a validation of the trust in indigenous drone technology. The technology is also being widely used for mapping by Survey of India. The applications have been mostly focused around Surveillance; I think time is apt for us to also focus on critical societal needs like food security and emergency medical support.
Why did Mela ventures choose General Aeronautics?
Mela Ventures felt GA’s indigenous solution based on strong internal R&D could immensely benefit all the ecosystem partners in the field of agriculture in India. The company’s successful trials with many partners demonstrated that the solutions were world-class. Mela saw the market potential to be huge as the Governments across the world are moving at speed to clear regulations for the use of drones. They see great potential in “Team GA”.