Drones were allowed to operate in India after a draft proposal by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on October 30, 2017. Many start-ups are exploring uses cases and practical applications for drone technology. One such start-up is Aarav Unmanned Systems (AUS), a Bengaluru-based start-up founded by Vipul Singh, Suhas Banshiwala and Yeshwanth Reddy in 2013.
Incubated at SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Centre at IIT- Kanpur, AUS has designed its drones to aid in crucial data collection and analytics needed by corporations, government bodies, mining and agriculture industry, etc.
“Mining is a continuous activity, there is always a continuous change happening over the land and people are supposed to record those changes and keep the land in certain shape both vertically and horizontally to meet regulatory and safety requirements and to achieve productivity. Our drones capture all this data intuitively and make the process faster and remove any threats that can arise from collecting such data,” said Vipin Singh, co-founder and CEO, Aarav Unmanned Systems. He added that the amount of data that can be captured through the drones is one to two million times more than other techniques.
“In a mine, there is a need for high accuracy of data. A small mine will have around `3 crore worth of stocks kept and an average-sized mine will have `20-30 crore worth of stocks kept and measuring the value of the stock is a monthly affair. Right now, people are working with a 10% error rate, which affects their account books and government royalties. Our drones have brought that margin of error to 1.5-2%,” he said. The company has Coal India as one of its clients in this sector.
In agriculture, when digging canals, you need to know the elevation of the land, ownership, etc. The process of collecting such information is slow, covering 500-600 acres takes a year. “In one part of the country, we finished the task in 30 days and the amount of data which we collected is 10-20 times the previous one with much more accurate data,” he said. AUS also helps to create detailed 3D models of a geographical region to help in the construction of watersheds. AUS is currently mapping 150 villages in Rajasthan for identifying watershed areas, a million dollar project. While several ways to collect such data exist, Singh says that AUS drones collect much more detail, ensure better resolution and accuracy for effective insight.
The company also has Hindalco, Vedanta, JSW, L&T and two state governments as its customers using the drone solutions. It recently won two new clients —Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) and Thematic Infotech.
AUS’s flagship product is Insight-PPK, an indigenous survey grade PPK GPS-based fully autonomous drone. The drones are operated through a computer software developed by AUS and according to the needs of the industry or client, the flight controls and image sensors on the drones are customised.
The central government is still in the process of bringing out a proper framework to regulate drones. For the last two years, the government has been working to establish a fixed set of regulations which will cover the procedure to obtain a pilot licence and procedure to obtain permission for operating drones. The concerns of safety, security and privacy are being dealt with by multiple ministries. After the draft norm was published by DGCA, AUS is part of the industrial group which is in close touch with the authorities and provide recommendations for the final draft. Singh says the long wait has caused significant damage to the industry already. He adds that many investors are hesitant about investing in the market.
AUS had raised an undisclosed amount of pre-Series A funding from GrowX Ventures, 500 Startups, and BellWether Advisors. Existing investors StartupXseed, 3one4 Capital and Sanjay Jesrani also participated in the funding round. AUS plans to use this capital to expand its business reach and focus more on R&D.
By Aniruddha Ghosh