[Startup Bharat] How Dehradun-based DTown Robotics is building customised drone solutions for India
Dehradun is often known for its scenery and being home to some of the reputed institutes. But now, it is also emerging as one of the startup hubs that house startups across sectors -- from deeptech to foodtech. One such startup is, a drone and robotics company.
Started in 2018 by Manas Upadhyay (26) and Avinash Chandra Pal (28), the Dehradun-based startup provides drones and robots with customised requirements.
“We focus on creating indigenous solutions to provide optimised product quality compared to imported products,” says Avinash.
The startup currently focuses on the agricultural and defence sector and has created use cases across fields like drones to scan fields with night and day vision, and robots and drones for security, survey, cinematography, etc. According to the founders, the startup’s expertise lies in the fact that it can manufacture deeptech drones as per any requirement.
The company is behind performing anti-locust operations along with the Government of India. The startup has also helped AIIMS in New Delhi to develop a robot, which sanitised the floors in the hospital. DTown Robotics also used its drones to spray pesticides and covered more than 250 acres of land in Rajasthan last year.
DTown is headquartered in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, with a Robot Research Centre in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, and has a lean team of 12 members.
It recently raised funding of $500K (approx Rs 3.5 crore) led by Electronic Eye Systems and Regard Network Solution. The startup is also recognised by the Startup Uttarakhand.
The first flight
Both Manas and Avinash knew each other from college. They both graduated in engineering from Graphic Era University (GEU) Dehradun, Uttarakhand, and were doing several projects related to drones and robotics. Avinash, who was a senior to Manas in college, has been passionate about robotics since always, and that’s what connected him to Manas. After Manas graduated in 2018, the duo decided to start their venture from the university.
“I was serving as a research associate in GEU and we started our own company from TBI-GEU, which is a government-recognised startup incubator. With a strong focus on robotics, we started the company as a customised solution provider with an initial capital investment of Rs 1 lakh,” says Manas.
Industry and competition
The ecosystem is now warming up to the idea and uses cases of drones. The central government launched Drone Rules, 2021, on August 25 to drive growth in the sector. The rules for drone operations have been liberalised by reducing the number of forms that need to be filled (from 25 to five) to operate them, and decreasing the types of fees charged from the operator (from 72 to four).
Co-founders of DTown Robotics
Over a period of three years, India will see an estimated investment of Rs 5,000 crore for the manufacturing of drones, which in turn will see the drone industry clock an annual turnover of Rs 900 crore in fiscal 2024, according to the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
While the drone sector in the country has grown by a significant margin, DTown co-founders claim that their startup stands out for its home-grown state-of-the-art tech solutions and being an indigenous deeptech solution provider catering to Indian needs.
“We are right now competing with some key players who are into drone manufacturing in the Indian market, especially in the “QuadCopter “category. We are continuously improvising over the technology part of the product and adding intelligence to it. In terms of unmanned ground vehicles, we are trying to develop fully indigenous products to compete with foreign market products. Our experience in the field of combat robotics has provided us utmost help in material selection, controller designing, and creating rugged systems,” says Avinash.
Some of the players in this space include Aarav Unmanned Systems, ideaForge, Grene Robotics, Skylark Drones, and Skye Air Mobility.
Revenue model and cashflow
DTown products are available for purchase and on subscription-based models. The average cost per solution for the drone applications starts from Rs 2 lakh and goes up to Rs 40 lakh depending on the payloads, maintenance, and insurance. In terms of robots, the solution starts from Rs 4.5 lakh and goes up to Rs 40 lakh according to the customised design and applications.
“As for the subscription model, it is right now available in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and New Delhi with a minimum work hour requirement of 30 hours. The team is also working on providing pilot certifications and training to users purchasing the products,” says Avinash.
The founders say the startup is profitable and it reinvests the profits to support its research and development. Manas adds that since inception, Rs 40 lakh has been invested in the startup.
With its latest funding of $500,00, Manas says that DTown plans to expand its manufacturing capabilities, enhance its product portfolio and distribution network across the country.
Speaking about future plans, Manas says the focus is to keep upgrading its technology and solutions faster, and DTown wants to keep its product competitive. The startup is also targeting for larger market share by collaborating with the government and corporates.