Flight Plan

Unmanned Flying Objects, at your service

TE Raja Simhan | Updated on: Mar 06, 2022

From capturing candid shots at in a wedding, to spraying pesticides to surveillance of places where access is difficult for humans, drones as a service (DaaS) is the next big thing

The Software as a Service (SaaS) model has completely transformed the software industry in the last few years, with India being one of the leaders in this space. 

One need not buy the software but subscribe to it for a fee, thus removing the hassles of owning it and maintaining it. Taking a cue, the Drone as a Service (DaaS) is emerging as the next major trend, with many Indian startups that have sprung up in the last few months offering drones to clients in various sectors, including agriculture, in this model.

Drone services, also called unmanned aerial vehicle services, are remote-controlled or flown autonomously using software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems. Its use ranges from capturing candid shots at a wedding, to spraying pesticides, to surveillance of oil pipelines in dense forests and places where access is difficult for humans.

Like SaaS, in DaaS, a farmer or a company that wants to use drones regularly need not invest in the equipment, software or hardware but can rent it from a drone service provider on pay-per-use or monthly rent.

One such company that offers DaaS is Bengaluru-based VFLYX India for agriculture, survey/ mapping, surveillance, an inspection of manufacturing units, oil and natural gas industry, solar panels, windmills, etc., real-estate construction projects. 

Under the DaaS model, companies can avail drone services on ‘pay per use’, which helps reduce their initial investment, making it easier for them to adopt and benefit from this new technology, said Vishal Saurav, CEO & Founder of VFLYX India.

The client comes up with his specific requirement/ application for which they want to deploy the drone for the job. After understanding the requirements, the technical team suggests the best suitable and most economical drone for the job. 

For example, an electric power supply company was dealing with an issue of electricity theft from power lines. To flush out the culprit, the company offered the electricity company a drone on a monthly fee to inspect different regions throughout the day. This exercise helped the company stop pilferage and save vast amounts of money.

The pricing of DaaS depends on customisation, including the type of drone that needs deployment; capacity; technology modifications; application, and additional features. The price of this kind of drone can range between ₹1.5 lakhs and ₹2.5 lakhs per month. For the agriculture sector, the pricing starts from  ₹15,000 for each session of spraying.  “Depending upon the drone type and configuration, our drone costs ₹4 lakhs and upwards,” Saurav added.

During the current harvesting season, the demand for drones is exceptionally high from farmers. He said that the requirement ranges from spraying pesticides and crop monitoring/analysis to address the labour shortage and overall advancement in the farming process.

Chennai’s drone startup Garuda Aerospace was one of the first entrants in the DaaS space to empower Indian farmers and the agriculture industry. 

Agnishwar Jayaprakash, Founder and CEO of Garuda Aerospace, said, “We firmly believe that the Kisan Drone has the power to transform the lives of Indian farmers. We aim to deploy 6 lakh drones across 6 lakh villages in India by 2025. Adopting drones in the agro-ecosystem can lead to an increase in the country’s Agriculture GDP by 1.5 per cent as per financial experts, he said.

Mughilan Thiru Ramasamy, CEO of the Bengaluru-based Skylark Drones, said the DaaS industry has matured during the last couple of years. Earlier, DaaS was all about drone hardware. Today, drone services have evolved into software solutions from acquiring data to processing the data & providing actionable insights from the processed data.

Skylark Drone caters to over 60 companies in the mining, solar, infrastructure, construction, utilities and agriculture sectors, enabling companies to make data-driven business decisions. It collects and translates data from worksites using drones to provide insight for increased productivity security and reach into scalable solutions for more innovative planning, faster construction, and better sustainability of high value geographically distributed assets such as roads, solar parks, mines and agricultural fields.

Ramaswamy said that Skylark’s DaaS offering contains:

Elements like fleet management data acquisition. On-demand pilot network. Data visualization platform. Value-added services like hydrology and drains’ design solution and mapping solution. 

The SaaS model is gaining traction rapidly, with several startups entering this sector because of its potential. 

Published on March 06, 2022
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