The geek has inherited the earth and for good reason. As start-ups began mushrooming in the 21st century, we observed a new axis of power. The tribe of suits in 9 to 5 setups are slowly dwindling and hipsters in welding helmets, twirling wrenches, and calibrating callipers are rapidly creating a new normal. Where creativity and technology driven initiatives are cutting industry time by less than half with outputs in measures of double. And the technology that demonstrates this to the hilt – Drone Tech.
Less than five years ago, when one said ‘drone’, the first thing that came to mind was wedding, events, fly and giggle. In the blink of an eye, these sky-toys and neck-benders have been giving a host of traditional tech an existential crisis – crane cameras, jibs, total stations, cable cameras and sensor mounted choppers among others.
Quidich (est. 2013) took the organic route – a college project that was conceptualised in a hostel dorm amidst a bale of young engineers who wanted to change the world and beastly laptops that ran lagging Windows. Kicking off as a small-time filming company, Quidich was one go the first movers in the drone industry in India. With time, compelling aerial shots and sky cinematography were creating ripples in the space and soon Quidich found itself in superior company such as the National Geographic and Discovery. The collateral disruption to academic technology exponents met the eye of the media.
Given how exciting this trade was, we spent 2014 exploring the industrial domain. We worked closely with players in mining, railways, defence, and telecom to understand what the incumbent processes were and how we could engage drone technology to up the efficiency levels of drones in Indian industry. Supplementary software solutions, GIS experts, and exposure to a host of industry veterans enabled numerous case studies and industrial solutions. For instance, we created ripples in the mining industry as our test cases found that drones were far more cost effective and efficient compared to total stations and physical surveys. Further, drone outputs were easily compatible with survey tools such as CAD and Vulcan among others. From helmets, shin-guards and binoculars, the mine surveyor would now be behind a computer screen with live visuals and volumetric calculations inside and office room. Similar solutions were tailored for the survey of telecom towers which mandated a temporary outage so the surveyor could climb and click. A 360-degree spin using drones and the tower with its aberrations and cracks were docked and documented in a matter of hours.
One of our flagship projects was the delivery of an end to end drone powered surveillance system for the Government of Rajasthan. Quidich ensured total immersion into the incumbent security systems by way of frequent meetings with bureaucrats, security experts, agencies, and even the sitting Chief Minister. We delivered a batch of high precision, defence-grade drones that would secure perimeters and assist the police in times of unrest. For instance, this system could man the convoy of the Chief Minister while delivering live feeds to the control room without loss of data or any form of malicious intrusion. This provided the latest information to the command centre while reducing the number of boots on ground. By 2015, the drone industry saw the rise of several other players. Industries would throw open their doors to drone exponents only to encounter the biggest roadblock – Regulations.
The DGCA issued a draft of guidelines in 2015 which Quidich deliberated on across forums such as FICCI and CII. Top minds of the industry came together to understand the most conducive conditions for drone operations in India. Come 2017, the DGCA issued a future-proof, industry-friendly draft and opened the floor to industry players by way of open houses chaired by none other than the Minister of Civil Aviation. Quidich spearheaded the formation of the Drone Federation of India – a consortium of leading drone / UAV companies that would converge to discuss policy and provide suggestions to the draft policy based on first-hand experience.
With the drone market expected to grow to USD 127 billion by 2020, venture capital on drone start-ups have touched upwards of USD 3.6 billion as on 2016. This trend has seen numerous investors looking towards India. With a tech friendly government that has been showing a great deal of intent in futurizing industry in India, there is only one way for the drones – Upwards.
About the Author: Vignesh Santhanam
Vignesh Santhanam (GMBA 2014) is a Mumbai based marketeer with over 7 years of industry experience. As a Software Engineer and MBA in Marketing, he spent close to three years in Warsaw and Singapore prior to pursuing his Management Studies. Post his Global MBA from SP Jain Global, Vignesh worked with the Maersk group where he managed clients in North Africa, Middle East, and the United States. In 2016, he made a switch to the disruptive tech space.
Vignesh is currently the CMO of Quidich Innovation Labs, one of India’s leading UAV companies. He is also the president of the Drone Federation of India – the voice of the UAV industry that focuses on industry advocacy, governance and policy. Vignesh is a trained scuba diver, a keen follower of politics and current affairs, and a coffee connoisseur.