by Aakash Srivastava
IADB: The aerospace market is witnessing massive growth with the new innovations in drones and the government’s positive outlook towards privatization of the market and has brought a lot of hope and space for new start-ups which were eagerly waiting for such opportunity.
Garuda Aerospace is one such name which has marked its presence in the market remarkably and with its recent recognition by Elon Musk it has garnered an impressive amount of clients from the global market, and investment in home.
Indian Aerospace and Defence Bulletin, had a recent tryst with the man behind the Garuda Aerospace, excerpts from the conversation below for our readers.
Agnishwar Jayaprakash, CEO & founder of Garuda Aerospace, discussed with us the huge potential of the Indian market for drones and its innovations, Garuda’s future projects and his vision for the company to take it to the next level globally.
Exactly a month ago, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX liked your tweet about Garuda’s new Surya drone that could potentially clean solar panels at Singapore’s new floating solar farms. Within a few hours, your company raised $1 million in series A funding. How has been the progress in the business of Garuda Aerospace since then?
Pandemic was a blessing in disguise for us. Garuda Aerospace has been on a path of rapid growth & progress since then. As we bagged several contracts from the government for various causes which includes delivering vaccines etc., we got massive recognition and business which we were seeking and as a startup our volume in the market increased.
We have always worked hard since our inception in 2015 but the ability to identify problems & offer sustainable cost-effective solutions has really transcended Garuda Aerospace into one of the best drone start-ups in India today.
Elon Musk taking notice & the subsequent $1 million dollar Funding has accelerated the growth trajectory towards Garuda becoming the 1st ever Drone Unicorn in the Indian Startup ecosystem.
Surya Drone, innovation of Garuda Aerospace has been the talk of the town since the Elon Musk saga. Tell us how the Surya drone stands out and about some of its USPs.
It has been quite a humbling experience ever since the Surya Drone was noticed by Elon Musk. When our R&D team were making rudimentary designs in 2019, we had already generated anticipation from a few giants in the solar industry but then the Pandemic situation in our country stalled the testing phase of Surya Drone.
Our goal while conceptualizing Surya was to consume less water & time to clean solar panels to ensure dust accumulation doesn’t reduce efficiency & decrease the amount of power being generated, Solar plants are strategically positioned in areas which promise maximum solar exposure throughout the year. It is only logical that availability of water was an issue for most plants. Our Market Research showed that industry needs an average of 3-4 litres per panel once in 15 days. The Surya Drone uses only 100Ml per panel & we have managed to perfect the design to accommodate thermal cameras mounted on the drone to simultaneously conduct structural damage assessment of the panels as well.
We have learnt that the Surya drone has been recently deployed in the Virescent Solar plant in Rajapalayam, Tamil Nadu, BHEL, NTPC, Adani and Avaada. You have also expressed the fact that several other giants in the solar industry have expressed interest in the advanced Surya drone. Tell us about that little bit and highlight a few major work your company is involved in across the country.
Within a few hours of Elon Musk liking my tweet, we received no less than a dozen requests from giants in the solar industry to immediately deploy the Surya Drone in their facilities. We were overbooked in 24 hours & quite frankly were pleasantly surprised how industries these days are very quick to implement disruptive solutions contrary to maybe 2 or 3 years ago.
Garuda was fortunate enough to receive funding at an opportune moment. Consequently, we could scale up production to keep up with the demand.
Resourcefulness & abilities to quickly scale our solutions sustainably have always been major strengths for Garuda Aerospace. Equipped With the largest drone fleet in the country & blessed with a pan India presence in 26 cities, we have been the most active drone startup executing over 250 Government orders & securing over 100 private sector contracts. The passion to be the best has always been a strong motivational factor since my younger days as an international swimmer for our country. The only difference is now we have a large team & I have to consistently lead my troops into battle on a daily basis.
Founded in 2015, Garuda Aerospace is designing, building and customising unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for multiple uses like spraying pesticides, fertilisers, sanitisation of public spaces, delivery of medicines etc. What are the other innovations your team is working on to enhance the quality of UAVs in India.
Garuda Aerospace has always been known for our ingenuity & ability to identify niche areas which require a lot of customization. Usually, drone firms turn down projects which will require R&D. At Garuda, We don’t intend to sell solely the drones available in our inventory. We want to address the clients’ issues & solve them with what we have. If we don’t have ready-made solutions, we spend time, money & resources and innovate our capabilities to build solutions. Some of our ambitious projects include: Paint spraying drone, seed planting drone, Anti Drone systems, Delivery drone (under 1000 secs delivery), Tunnel inspection drone, Internal Boiler inspection drone, Lidar analysis drone, Structural damage inspection drone.
Recently there has been a growing demand for the Anti Drone system in the country for security reasons. Is Garuda Aerospace considering contributing to such demand?
We have already designed a 4 layer Anti Drone system. For obvious reasons, we can’t disclose the intricate details of this innovation but rest assured, Garuda Aerospace is on the job. The Attack in Jammu & Kashmir hurt me personally & I have grieved much like every Indian when our brave soldiers who risk their lives to protect us are injured or killed. When such an attack is carried out by rogue drones, I take it upon myself as a fiduciary responsibility to design a solution that will save lives from such attacks in the future. The system is going through final stages of testing & we should have a version ready for deployment by the end of the year.
Despite the pandemic, your company scored numerous contracts from government and private entities last year and grew significantly. Would you like to mention a few contracts which were massive for the growth of your company and you are proud of getting them?
NTPC, SAIL, NDRF, BCCL, CPCL, Forest departments, Survey of India, Several smart cities like Varanasi, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Rourkella & Raipur have been some of the Government bodies we have served this past year. Our services have been utilized by top MNCs like Adani, Godrej, Reliance, ITC, Vedanta, Tafe & over 40,000 farmers in the private sector. I credit my hardworking team & our advisory board which has over 400 years of experience in diverse fields in not only securing these contracts but also the support extending in executing them to keep our clients happy.Y
You have often expressed the fact that Garuda Aerospace will mark its presence in the global market soon. What’s your plan to expand the business in the international market?
Being an alumni of the Harvard Business School, I have been blessed with amazing friends, acquaintances and potential business partners across the world who I routinely consult with to explore collaborations. We have already established partners in Africa & we will be commencing our operation in early 2022. GCC & Europe will also be very important markets which we will look to expand before the end of next year. I foree Garuda venturing into the US, South America & the Pan Pacific markets in 2023 & being a global drone giant by January 2024.In
Indigenisation of industries has been a major focus of the government. Recently, in an interview with Indian Aerospace and Defence, Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said that they are working closely with private entities to innovate new components of unmanned assets. Has Garuda Aerospace approached the Ministry of Defence Or IAF for any such project or contract?
We have worked with the Army Design Bureau & the NDRF to design Delivery drones that carry payloads of 30 Kgs in High altitudes. We are also working with the Army to find hidden landmines that are planted to disrupt & disorient our armed forces. We have several other applications which are under wraps as it concerns national security. Rest assured, Garuda Aerospace is prioritizing the Defence forces to keep our country safe & the world will soon see a dominant force in the Drone Industry.