DRONELIFE recently caught up with Prateek Srivastava, CEO of Terra Drone India. As India becomes a major player in the global drone industry, Srivastava gives his take on the commercial drone industry, unmanned traffic management (UTM), and where he sees the commercial market going in India.
DRONELIFE: Can you tell our readers who many not be familiar with Terra Drone what you do?
Prateek: “Terra Drone India, coming out of Japan’s No. 1 UAV Company, Terra Drone Corporation, has entered the relatively unexplored territory of the Indian Industrial UAV market. The market is brimming with potential: we’ll help industries streamline their workflows with Terra Drone’s latest state-of the art UAV technology backed with strong artificial intelligence.
With a strong global presence in almost all the continents, this techno-preneur company aims to essentially build an integrated ecosystem, a complete Sales-Services-Support (3S) module – amalgamating technologies from across the world in a common unified platform.
Terra Drone covers the whole solution, from manufacturing hardware based on specific project requirements to UAV data acquisition, image – processing and delivery of data. That data can help organizations and industries to not only visualize the entire landscape and monitor the progress of work, but also perform advanced IoT driven analytics.”
DRONELIFE: Terra Drone has recently invested in a UTM company Unifly out of Belgium. How did that come about?
Prateek: “Terra Drone has recently re-invested in UTM company Unifly. We also takes pride in being one of the earliest investors in Unifly. Terra Drone believes that the UAV/Drone ecosystem is incomplete without taking into consideration the peripheral applications such as Airspace Safety, Efficient Drone Monitoring and Management, etc. Unifly has been one of the pioneers and a leading company in the Unmanned Traffic Management Solutions. They have successfully made key collaborations and implementations with air navigation service providers of multiple countries overseas such as DFS (Deutsche Flugsicherung of Germany), Naviair of Denmark, Austro Control of Austria and Skeye of Belgium.
With the recent announcements addressing challenging frontier issues such as Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) & Autonomous Operations, Terra Drone wants to actively take part in making these visions into a reality – that’s why Terra Drone collaborated with Unifly.”
DRONELIFE: You recently announced that you are going to market UTM from Unifly in India. How do you see that working and what will you do to make it successful?
Prateek: “To enable the concept of a digital sky, the urgent need of the hour is an automated platform bridging the gap between manned and unmanned aviation. UTMS brings in features that simplify the entire process. The software helps in creating a 3-Dimensional flight plan. The software provides geofences, tracks UAVs, avoids collisions and ensures accident – free airspace. Drone Pilots can plan, track and validate their flights in line with international and local regulations.
Additionally, due to the existence of a non-harmonized landscape, it thoroughly checks and integrates the different regulations in respective countries along with hyper local accurate dynamic aeronautical data to verify the drone flights making Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights possible. The communication platform not only connects official entities with drone operators, it allows Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) to monitor and manage drones apart from the drone pilot enabling a dual control system.
Indian UAV regulations authority has taken a few innovative and forward looking initiatives to streamline, organize and grow the nascent Indian drone industry. We wish to be a key contributor to that. As the Unifly UTMS solution can be implemented at any scale, we want to deploy it right from state level to national level.”
DRONELIFE: India seems to be moving forward on the commercial side of drones with some regulatory advancements. How long do you think that it will be before the commercial drone market in India starts to take off?
Prateek: “The drone industry has grown exponentially – it’s traveled long way from its stage of infancy. Now that the technology has a proven track record, the government has been recently taking great strides in developing a unique centralized platform introducing India in this global competitive industry and bringing more transparency to the commercial drone market. However, since the issues to threat of security and privacy needs to be addressed with utmost importance, keeping in mind the roles of rogue drones and unauthorized access to the airspace, a 6 month to a year of gestation period looks essential.”
DRONELIFE: In which markets do you see the first commercial drones’ successes in India?
Prateek: “The areas of commercial applications of drones are phenomenal. The major sectors will be Aerial Cinematography/Videography and Geographical Information System (GIS) based surveying and mapping. But there will be applications from precision agriculture, where UAS allow farmers to monitor crops, finding problems not visible through ground control checks to seasonal inspections detecting weeds estimating crop yields to utilizing it for disaster relief and humanitarian aid.”
DRONELIFE: Looking forward, which drone sectors do you see having the most traction in India and why?
Prateek: “In the field of surveying, geospatial mapping, asset inspections such as cell towers, transmission lines and bridges to aiding national scale operations such as search and rescue and public safety missions, drones have played a very crucial role.
With field swappable, plug and play sensors coming into picture, inspections have become easier reducing accidents caused due to human error, improving lives and safety benefitting industries in need of utility mapping.
The infrastructure, oil and gas and smart city sectors could easily be accounted for having the most traction in the coming months. With the growing awareness of the abilities of the drones in terms of time, cost and efficiency, the decision makers of these industries are transitioning towards this technology. Drones could cut down the survey and inspection time of a transmission line by up to ten times, provide twenty times higher accuracy data and reduce cost by up to ten times as compared to conventional technologies. These jarring differences are making several industries reach out to the UAV and use the same for suitable projects.”
DRONELIFE: You have been in the drone space for about a year now. How has that education process been for you?
Prateek: “The drone fever has not just caught on, it’s been a fascinating and researched technology for the past decade. Large volumes of data are being constantly collected, stored in the cloud and communicated or transmitted and then converted into meaningful information. The niche aerial market has attracted young entrepreneurs and start-ups in this market creating a global impact of close to $82 billion in the coming decade, according to AUVSI.
Even though drones have always been a buzz, there have always been challenges. The grey areas – whether it is legal to import or fly drones, or receiving permissions from local authorities and DGCA – have always been an extremely time intensive process, which discouraged many interested organizations in earlier adoption of this technology.
Although Terra Drone India may be turning only a year old, the entire team of UAV experts, pilots, GIS experts and analysts have a cumulative experience of 250+ man years – we’re could be treated as a company wiser than our years. Each of our team members have individually experienced and worked in different stages of development of this entire industry of UAVs and GIS (Geographical Information System).”
DRONELIFE: What is the most interesting thing about Terra Drone that most people might not know?
Prateek: “The Terra Drone Group with a team comprising of technopreneurs, evangelists, taskmasters, senior air-force pilots and solution architects from across the world, brings in expertise to the UAS domain like none other. With the technical expertise, know-how and experience of more than 1500 successfully completed projects, Terra Drone’s biggest USP is in its Human Resources.”
This is in a continuing series of drones in India including a interview with a drone delivery company , and a recent piece on the state of drone regulations in India.