For a long time now, India has been depending on foreign countries to procure raw materials for machinery. However, with the ‘Make in India’ and Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiatives gaining ground, Indian startups are turning self-sufficient.
Following these ideologies, Kochi-based AI Aerial Dynamics is manufacturing indigenous UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). The dronetech startup is offering its products at a better cost to consumers.
Founded by college friends Vishnu V Nath, M Rubin Ray, Denny Poulose, and Sujai KJ, AI Aerial Dynamics was incubated at the Maker Village, Kochi, in 2019, and the company was registered in January, 2020.
Vishnu, 31, holds a PhD in Aerial Robotics from CTU, Gujarat. He conceived this idea during his college days, in 2015. “The initial design was implemented as my BTech project and later others joined the group,” he says.
Starting as a hobby to build remote controlled aircrafts, the team, having successfully tested the UAVs, designed a business plan and started the company.
Vishnu, who is currently the CTO at AI Aerial Dynamics, previously worked with the Kerala State Departments of Police, Forest, Archaeology, and Disaster Management on case studies to implement UAVs in the respective departments.
Rubin Ray, 31, is an MTech graduate, and focuses on Machine Learning System Architect. He previously worked with Tata Elxsi. Sujai, 32, is currently pursuing MBA and is the CEO of the startup. Denny, 29, on the other hand, is the Director at AI Aerial Dynamics. The startup currently has a team of eight employees.
“We have been working out of Maker Village due to its world-class fabrication lab. Additionally, all our technical challenges are solved by the mentors from the Maker Village,” Vishnu says.
The founding team initially invested Rs 8 lakh to start the company, and it later received Rs 10 lakh from NIDHI – Promotion and Accelerator of Young and Aspiring technology entrepreneur (PRAYAS).
How does it work?
The dronetech startup designs UAVs according to the clients requirements. The team then designs and begins the simulation stage. Once manufactured, the product or drone is tested, re-optimised, and finally delivered to the client.
“The design and manufacturing of the drone is done in-house. All the parts are manufactured using in-house equipment and utilising Maker Village Lab facilities,” Vishnu says.
Only the carbon fibre and batteries are imported from Germany and the USA, respectively.
AI Aerial Dynamics has autonomous UAVs from two kilograms to 100 kilograms payloads, and also has sensors, video, data link, and ground control stations.
The drones start from Rs 4 lakh. Besides product sales, AI Aerial Dynamics also generates revenue from customising designs, services, and spare parts sales.
While there were initial delays in the procurement of components and payments, during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, AI Aerial Dynamics soon started helping the Kerala government fight the virus.
It helped the government design an UAV capable of spraying sanitisers. The startup further deployed its drones to track people strolling outside their houses during the lockdown. It has also helped in the thermal scanning of crowds.
Garud, a UAV developed by the startup, is fitted with thermal scanners to read the temperature of people in a crowd. It has the capacity to carry a load of up to 60 kgs, and was used in Kerala to spray disinfectants, carry medical samples, and emergency deliveries with minimal human touch points
While the drontech industry is still in its nascent stage, the Indian UAV industry, as estimated by InvestIndia.gov, stands at around $885.7 million.
Some of the other drontech startups to watch out for in the Indian startup ecosystem includes the likes of Marut Dronetech, VINVELI, IdeaForge, Aero360, and Drona Aviation, among others. However, Vishnu says, “Our USP is that we offer customised products as per client requirements.”
AI Aerial Dynamics targets the defence sector, government entities, and agricultural sector. It is currently working on a project with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), under the Ministry of Defence, Naval Physical, and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL).
According to Vishnu, the drontech startup has recorded up to 15 percent growth in its production. The startup has so far sold three units, and its annual average revenue stands at Rs 35 lakh.
The startup is looking forward to getting its products certified by the Indian government. Additionally, “We have been working on manufacturing heavy lift UAVs that can carry humans, and we are also looking forward to raising funds from grants,” Vishnu says.