Drones in India – Today & Tomorrow

by February 13, 2018 0 comments

Co-authored by Dr. Jan Radtke (Vice President & Head, New Business Accelerator, Cyient) and

Dinakar Devireddy (Assistant General Manager, New Business Accelerator, Cyient)


Drones or “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (UAV’s) are a technology that has been on the rise for some time now across the world. They are increasingly being used for consumer purposes. Also, video and photography with drones have been a significant driver for sales around the globe.

Simply speaking, the market around drones can be split into three parts:

–    Consumer applications

–    Commercial applications

–    Militaryapplications

While the Indian Military has been using drones for quite some time now, we would like to direct the focus towards Commercial applications, as there is already much awareness about Consumer applications.

When it comes to the size of the drone industry worldwide, the numbers projected are in the range of US$8.89 bn by the end of 2025 for the global commercial drones market, of which 50% will be in the USA, according to a source (Transparency Market Research (TMR)). Other sources indicate wildly different numbers, indicative of the uncertainty in this growth market. Therefore, it is more important to look at the enablers of future drone business. The future growth of the commercial drone market will be driven by several factors:

–    Availability of commercial applications with drones

–    The development of a network of drone operators

–    The future evolution of regulation – this is especially true for India, where new directives have just been put in place.

Let’s have a look at each of these factors.


Availability of commercial drone applications

There are strong use-cases in agriculture, Smart City applications, and law enforcement among others. However, applications for these have often not yet achieved the level of maturity that would be required for commercial applications. As a result, only a small part of this potential market has been tapped into so far. If we had to guess, we believe it is a mere 5% or less of the full potential.

This is closely linked to a slow adaption rate of customers: Many potential customers don’t yet fully understand which value services can be delivered using drones. This leads to a hen-egg problem, wherein demand is still low and in turn, the offering of services is neither mature nor is it offered across the country.
Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with the second factor:

Availibility of a distributed drone operator network

Services utilizing drones have to be delivered locally. For India that might mean thousands of local drone operators would be required to deliver services. More likely than not, these will be small independent companies, utilizing multiple different solutions. In the morning, it might be the inspection and documentation of a bridge with high-resolution pictures. At noon, there might be a festival ceremony, where they operate drones to provide surveillance and crowd management information to the police and in the afternoon, they might do multi-spectral data acquisition for a farmer to assess crop health. The software solutions, special sensor payloads etc., will most likely come from different system houses. There is currently no company that develops drone applications for all use cases.

But another factor will most likely be more important:

Future evolution of regulation

Drones can raise concerns, be it regarding privacy (who would want to have a drone spy through the window into his bedroom?), but also regarding safety, e.g. when drones are irresponsibly used next to airports and put planes, passengers and crews at risk. In addition, drones can be used for espionage or terrorist attacks. So there is a clear need for regulation, which is why the Government has just recently published a draft document, seeking inputs from the industry and other stakeholders. As always, in these cases it is a delicate balancing act between safety/security aspects and the benefits of using drones, be it for the entertainment of commercial uses. This is a development all countries are dealing with, and it will take a while until final regulations are released, and routines are established.

The Hackadrone

Cyient has been working with Fortune 500 companies across the globe, and we have observed substantial interest from these customers into the application of drone-based services. Therefore, Cyient has a keen interest in commercial drone applications and aims to be in a leadership position, both in R&D and the development of service solutions. India’s first UAV hackathon, Hackadrone (www.hackadrone.in) is an attempt to bring out the innovative ideas in the development community on an appropriate platform. Professional drone hardware and payload like advanced camera systems are cost prohibitive and difficult to get by developers across India. With the help of our partner DJI, the world’s leading drone manufacturer, we will invite the teams with the best ideas for a week from February 5 – 9, into our campus in Hyderabad to develop their solutions and demonstrate them in front of a jury. DJI will make its newest drones and software available to the selected teams, and we are looking forward to an exciting journey with India’s first UAV Hackathon – Hackadrone 2018.

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