With a rapidly evolving ecosystem and aided by a progressive policy framework, the industry for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones as commonly referred to, is estimated to become a multibillion-dollar sector in India over the next few years.
The industry is evolving and growing rapidly as Indian enterprises, start-ups, government agencies, the defence sector, and numerous other entities are now understanding and using its wide range of applications, ranging from aerial surveys, surveillance, film-shooting, deliveries, and even warfare.
The government is committed to growing and expanding the sector and believes that India can become a global drone hub by 2030.
We spoke to Mughilan Thiru Ramasamy, CEO of Skylark Drones, to understand more about this exciting new sector, on why he is so bullish about its growth and excited about the difference that his company can make to the sector. Here are the excerpts from the conversation:
Tell us about Skylark Drones - how did your journey begin?
Our journey started back in college, where we were part of Team Vyoma, an aerospace club. The RV College of Engineering club allowed us to learn, experiment, and build several unmanned aerial vehicles. The concept and the application intrigued us, and we realised the potential was endless. In 2015, in a small garage, with no capital and continuous thoughts about various use cases for drones, Skylark was born. Over six years, Skylark Drones has served over 100 enterprises, with more than 1 million images processed and executed over 20,000 autonomous flights via their platform. Several Fortune 500 companies trust Skylark's platforms.
The drone space is getting crowded. What sets you apart from the competition?
There is an exciting future in drones and what they offer. With a favourable ecosystem and encouraging support from the government, the drone industry is set for exponential growth in the coming years. Our focus has always been on innovation and solutions that enhance efficiency and maximise profitability. We believe that our commitment to reimagining the use cases of drones will help us innovate and stay ahead of the curve.
Our platform helps in complete end-to-end drone applications for the present and future. We manage and execute everything - from ensuring compliance with regulations to manufacturers, streamlining operations, and automating drone data analytics. Our platform and products cover everything from the drone hardware to the data-powered insights that every end-user needs to add more to our uniqueness.
Why are enterprises looking for specialised drone services, and how can it impact their bottom line?
Today, enterprises are looking to increase safety, operational efficiency, transparency in their operations, and maximise profitability. They have realised that drones can provide great value on all fronts. It can further unlock the possibilities for solving problems that were hitherto difficult to solve. Increased awareness coupled with the new liberalised drone rules 2021 will fast-track plans of drone companies opening new opportunities, revenue streams with a much-improved ease-of-doing business ecosystem. A recent report by BIS Research cites that the drone market in India is expected to reach $1.21 billion in 2021. It is expected to reach $1.81 billion by 2026 growing at a compound annual growth rate of 14.61%.
What are the key business trends affecting your ecosystem, and what should one look out for in 2022?
With drone regulations around the world maturing and shaping up to be stable, we see drone applications in the enterprise growing in adoption as we move from proof-of-concept and trial runs to sustained adoption, especially in the technological sector focussed on Drone surveys and operations. Vastly used in applications like mining, agriculture, real estate, and defence strategies, drone Surveys can be one of the key trends in the coming year.
What are your business projections for the next five years? Where do you see growth coming from?
Real-world applications will shape the future of drones. We see the software stack growing day by day in terms of its usage, as it helps the bottom line of drone service providers and enterprise customers across the world. Each sector will want to be a part of this evolution, and we will see new opportunities across businesses. Currently, the mining and agriculture sectors are leveraging drones to enhance efficiency and growth. We expect the trend to continue in the next five years. The country is gradually opening up to drone applications, led by non-commercial applications for aerial cinematography, land surveys, agriculture & mining activities, disaster management, construction activities, and mapping national highways and railway tracks.
The government is forecasting India as a global hub for drones – do you see this happening and how?
With the liberalised drone rules in India, we're in a unique position to become the world's drone hub. We believe that the streamlined execution of the Digital Sky platform that the government is building as the one-stop platform for all drone-related activities can positively catalyst this growth. The government has allocated INR 120 crores under the new Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme that seeks to promote the growth of drone manufacturing in conjunction with the Drone Rules 2021. The incentive is double the combined turnover of all domestic drone manufacturers in FY21. Manufacturers will get an incentive of up to 20 per cent on the value addition made by them. The new set of regulations for drones is fascinating to businesses and investors. The country and the sector expect a significant rise in investment in the industry due to abolishing import restrictions and the PIL scheme.
Given the new drone policy announced, what more would you want from the government to improve the industry's operational ecosystem?
The process to add more policies and incentives in the drone industry is a slow and gradual process. It will take some time for a new scheme to be introduced. But, the faster it's introduced, the better it is for the ecosystem. Some of the things we would like are, Regulators need to watch out for kinks and obstacles in the industry. It is promoting private players to build higher-level applications on the foundation that is laid. The government has taken the initiative to set up a drone promotion council. With the fast-moving industry we're in. We believe government and industry working together will ensure timely progress across the entire drone space.