India’s first type-certified kisan drone company sets sight on homegrown manufacturing

IoTechWorld Avigation Pvt Ltd started as a drone assembly company importing components internationally. Since last year, the company has switched to 55% local manufacturing and aims to increase it to 90% by next year.

India’s first type-certified kisan drone company sets sight on homegrown manufacturing

Friday October 21, 2022,

6 min Read

Drones are everywhere—from videographers using them at weddings to scientists employing them towards agricultural and geospatial mapping. 

A big credit for the growth of the drone industry in the last year goes to the government, which has taken various initiatives to make India self-reliant in drone manufacturing. It introduced an incentive of Rs 120 crore under the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme and made The Drone Rules, 2021 to make India a global drone hub by 2030. 

One of the beneficiaries of these initiatives is IoTechWorld Avigation Pvt Ltd, a manufacturer of kisan (agricultural) drones, which received the first Type Certificate (TC) for its airworthiness last year. 

Speaking to SMBStory, Deepak Bharadwaj and Anoop Upadhyay, Co-founders of IoTechWorld Avigation, talk at length about building the drone manufacturing company from scratch and how they are helping farmers across India.

Made-in-India drone company

The journey of IoTechWorld Avigation began in 2017 when Deepak and Anoop decided to enter the drone space which was gaining demand in the Indian market.

Both the founders are engineers—Deepak is a graduate of Kurukshetra University and Anoop studied at Purvanchal University. “We both had the same engineering mindset and both of us wanted to do something in the drone space since it was gaining momentum in India,” says Anoop.

While Deepak initially inclined towards the defence space, the duo decided to focus on the agriculture sector seeing the need for technology to help farmers with enhanced crop production and make agricultural practices efficient.

The duo invested around Rs 6 lakh to Rs 7 lakh from their savings to set up the base in Gurugram. Due to the lack of infrastructure for the homegrown manufacturing of drones, IoTechWorld started importing components from countries like China and Japan and assembled them in India for retailing.

“There was no infrastructure for drone manufacturing back when we started, and while we were doing our R&D to make this product in-house, the big push happened when the government started giving green signals,” Deepak says. 

Between 2017 and 2020, the company sold around 200 drones to farmers. 

Things took a turn in 2021 when the government laid out the budget for the drone PLI scheme and even drafted rules for manufacturing. Since then, the sector has seen a boom with more than 200 entrants in the growing space. 

IoTechWorld Avigation now manufactures 55% of its hardware components in its Gurugram facility, and in the next two to three years, it aims for 100% indigenous production by setting up another unit in Hyderabad.

Anoop says that as of now, DGCA has approved their product AGRIBOT in three different play loads: spray tanks, multispectral sensor, and granules broadcaster—sold in different versions. The drones feature AI/ML features, including collision and terrain avoidance mechanisms, along with multilingual software.

IoTech World Avigation

AGRIBOT drone by IoTechWorld Avigation

The market

Despite the Drone Rules, 2021 allowing 75 days for issuing TC—60 days to the Quality Council of India (QCI) or the Certification Bodies (CB) and 15 days to DGCA— IoTechWorld received it within 34 days after submitting an online application on the DGCA’s DigitalSky Platform. 

The TC award gave the company’s business a boost, and to date, it has sold drones to companies like Dhanuka Agritech Limited, Chambal Fertilisers, Sulphur Mills Limited etc. It is also associated with universities and institutions including Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and more for R&D purposes. 

“We are also setting up ‘Remote Pilot Training Organisation’ at some universities, which will be used to train youths and entrepreneurs on how to fly drones,” Deepak and Anoop tell.

Talking about the competition, Deepak and Anoop say that China is leading the space in the world. According to Statista, revenue generated by the drones segment in India amounts to $19.93 million in 2022. The market is expected to grow annually by 10.12% (CAGR 2022-2027). Globally, most of the revenue is generated in China ($1,254 million in 2022).

While the competition is growing in space, the duo feel that it will only help in strengthening the drone ecosystem in India and help make it a global drone hub. IoTechWorld counts Asteria Aerospace Limited and CBAI Technologies Private Limited among its peers.

“We are research partners of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), to form the country’s drone policy. What also sets us apart from our peers is that we have service centres across India. We have conducted more than a thousand educational campaigns and drone yatras stretching up to 20,000 km,” Anoop tells SMBStory.

But, the challenge comes from the unorganised sector where drone smuggling is abound.

“Many companies sell imported non-certified drones at cheaper prices and farmers are buying them. But this is hampering the market. While there are rules and laws associated with drone usage in place, there needs to be strong enforcement from the government,” Deepak and Anoop say. 

The way ahead

Drones are employed by many companies to save water and electricity as drone spraying systems curtail water usage by 95%, according to a study by Corteva AgriScience and Arpac. They also reduce the involvement of farmers in the sprinkling of pesticides and insecticides, which pose health hazards and cause up to 8% of crop breaks because of conventional spray methods. 

The founders claim drone usage also helps farmers mitigate risks and increase profitability and the duo aims to sell around 70,000 drones annually by 2027-28.

“The demand is sure to rise and we are expecting high demand from the coming rabi season,” they tell SMBStory.

IoTechWorld Avigation is also working on creating more awareness among farmers by organising Drone Yatra and Kisan Sammelan. They have also recently launched an application for farmers who cannot afford to buy drones but want to rent them. The average rental price is Rs 500 per acre in the case of paddy and around Rs 800 for any other crop.

The average price of IoTechWorld Avigation’s drones ranges between Rs 7.5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh. 

“In future, we have plans to enter other drone segments, but at the moment, it is too premature to share anything on foraying into other sectors,” Anoop concludes. 

Edited by Kanishk Singh