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Drone manufacturers on hiring spree amid fresh funding

Drone manufacturers are doubling their headcount to develop new products and tap new markets in India and overseas. This comes on the back of fresh funding and policy initiatives that have simplified operation and production of drones.

“Our staff strength is 60 and we expect to double the 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 people in senior roles in sales for our defence and private sector contracts,” said Aakash Sinha, founder and CEO of Omnipresent Robot Tech, a Delhi NCR-based drone manufacturer that provides drones to the government for village mapping and oil companies for inspection and surveys.

“Business sentiment has improved in the last six months and we are getting larger orders from government and private customers. We are about to bag a Rs 50 crore order from a state government – which will be our largest order till date,” Sinha added.

Ditto for ideaForge, which makes drones for defence, homeland security and industrial applications. “The last two years have been the best so far and our revenue has grown 10x,” said Ankit Mehta, co-founder and CEO of ideaForge. Mehta founded the firm in 2007 and it currently employs 350-400 employees (including contract staff). “We will double our permanent staff from around 200 to 400 and most of the new hires would be in engineering functions,” he added.

Garuda Aerospace plans to increase its current headcount from 200 to around 1500 by hiring drone pilots, engineers and sales executives to serve both domestic and export markets that include UAE, Malaysia, Panama and countries in Africa.

“We are scaling very quickly and sustainably,” said Agnishwar Jayaprakash, founder-CEO of Garuda Aerospace. Along with drone manufacturing and services, the firm also provides clients with data analytics and artificial intelligence applications to their decision making, Jayaprakash said.

While ideaForge received $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.

“Most of our capex would be for development of new products and improving the effectiveness of existing solutions,” Mehta said. Sinha said they will use funds for working capital and business expansion. “We aim to expand our manufacturing and drone training facility in Gautam Buddha University,” Sinha added.

IdeaForge and Omnipresent Robot Tech are among the 14 manufacturers that have been selected as beneficiaries in the Drone PLI scheme last month. Last September the government cleared the scheme to make India a drone hub by 2030. It provides upto 20 per cent incentive to manufacturers of drones and drone components. The government hopes that the sector will attract investment of over Rs 5,000 crore and expects a jump in industry turnover from around Rs 60 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 900 crore in FY24.

“In some of our products 70 per cent of components are indigenous. We are trying to double down on that and the PLI scheme will encourage us to do more local value addition,” Mehta said.

“While the list of beneficiaries have been announced under the PLI scheme, it is imperative to expedite the granting of type certificates under the Drone Rules 2021. This becomes important especially since import of drones has been banned and hence boot in domestic manufacturing would largely be dependent on granting of the type certificate which is a prerequisite to commercial drone development,” said Huzefa Tavawalla, head of disruptive technologies practice at Nishith Desai Associates. Business Standard

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