Drone manufacturing industry gets off to a steady flight

NEW DELHI : A year since the announcement of incentives for the country’s fledgling drone manufacturing industry, there has been a steady increase in the number of projects.

This has spurred startups such as Garuda Aerospace, IdeaForge and Skye Air Mobility, which provide drones-as-a-service for such projects, to accelerate manufacturing due to the increasing demand.

For instance, Garuda Aerospace said it will double its production capacity to 100 drones per day by March 2023.

Agnishwar Jayaprakash, the company’s founder and chief executive officer, said demand is outpacing supply. “We already have received 27,000 pre-bookings for drones, which are ready to be delivered by March next year. By end-2024, we aim to make up to 100,000 drones every year,” Jayaprakash said.

Similarly, Mumbai-based IdeaForge received a contract worth $20 million in January last year to make drones specifically for the Indian Army. In March this year, it received a second similar order as well. Manufacturing of domestic drones was further augmented on 8 August, when industry body Drone Federation of India (DFI) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Army Design Bureau (ADB) to build and design drones for use in the Indian military.

Garuda’s Jayaprakash said the company has a sales pipeline of 1,000 crore for the next one year. He said that projects like the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agri India Fund (AIF), which on 30 July offered the company a “drone loan” to build affordable ‘Kisan Drones’ for use in the agriculture sector have helped drive demand.

Both Garuda and IdeaForge are applicants of the 120 crore production linked incentive scheme announced on 15 September 2021 to encourage local manufacturing of drones and their parts.

On the commercial front, Delhi-based Skye Air Mobility has seen an uptick in orders from enterprises. Ankit Kumar, CEO, said the company has grown its drone fleet to 50, which are being used to provide services like medicine deliveries and restaurant inventory. “By March next year, our fleet will increase to 150 drones,” Kumar said.

While Skye Air offers drone services and does not manufacture them for third parties, it does build its own drones — the capacity of which is set to triple in the next six months, he said.

A report by consultancy firm EY India and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) published on 7 September said that, “focused implementation of drone indigenization projects” in defence, homeland security, counter drones and commercial applications can create an overall market opportunity of 1.8 trillion by 2030.

However, experts cautioned that this fillip to drone manufacturing comes with its own set of challenges which the industry needs to overcome to realize its full potential and make the country a global manufacturing hub for drones. Akshya Singhal, partner at EY India said a key area that needs to be improved is the procurement of locally sourced components for drone manufacturing.

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