Drone manufacturers are doubling their headcount to develop new products and open up new markets in India and overseas. This is due to new funding and policy initiatives that have simplified the operation and production of drones.
“We have 60 employees and expect to double that number in the coming quarter. Most of the new hires will be on the technology side – in drone design, engineering and pilots. We are also looking for senior sales positions for our defense and private sector contracts,” said Aakash Sinha, founder and CEO of Omnipresent Robot Tech, a Delhi NCR-based drone manufacturer that supplies the government with drones for village and oil mapping makes companies available for inspections and surveys.
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“The business climate has improved over the last six months and we are receiving larger orders from government and private customers. We are in the process of bagging a Rs 50 crore order from a state government – which will be our largest order to date,” Sinha added.
The same goes for ideaForge, which makes drones for defense, homeland security, and industrial applications. “The last two years have been the best yet and our revenue has increased 10-fold,” said Ankit Mehta, co-founder and CEO of ideaForge. Mehta founded the company in 2007 and currently employs 350-400 people (including temporary workers). “We will double our permanent staff from around 200 to 400, and most of the new hires would be in technical roles,” he added.
Garuda Aerospace plans to increase its current workforce from 200 to around 1500 by hiring drone pilots, engineers and sales managers to serve both domestic and export markets including UAE, Malaysia, Panama and countries in Africa.
“We are scaling very quickly and sustainably,” said Agnishwar Jayaprakash, Founder and CEO of Garuda Aerospace. In addition to drone manufacturing and services, the company also provides customers with data analytics and artificial intelligence applications for their decision-making, Jayaprakash said.
While ideaForge raised $20 million in Series B funding last month, Omnipresent Robot Tech raised an undisclosed sum from Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath’s investment firm in February.
“The majority of our capital expenditures would be used to develop new products and improve the effectiveness of existing solutions,” Mehta said. Sinha said they will use funds for working capital and business expansion. “We intend to expand our manufacturing and drone training facility at Gautam Buddha University,” Sinha added.
IdeaForge and Omnipresent Robot Tech are among 14 manufacturers selected as beneficiaries of the Drone PLI program last month. Last September, the government approved the program to make India a drone hub by 2030. It offers manufacturers of drones and drone components an incentive of up to 20 percent. The government hopes the sector will attract investment of over Rs 5,000 crore and expects the industry turnover to increase from around Rs 60 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 900 crore in FY24.
“In some of our products, 70 percent of the components are indigenous. We are trying to double that and the PLI program will encourage us to do more local value creation,” Mehta said.
“Although the list of beneficiaries under the PLI program has been announced, it is imperative to expedite the issuance of model certificates under the Drone Rules 2021. This becomes particularly important as the import of drones has been banned and therefore domestic manufacturing would largely be dependent on the issuance of the type certificate, which is a prerequisite for commercial drone development,” said Huzefa Tavawalla, head of disruptive technologies practice at Nishith Desai Associates.