A tiny Singapore based startup recently used an unmanned aerial vehicle to deliver coffee to the judges at a startup pitch. Claiming to be the first startup in Asia to enter into the commercial drone business, Garuda Robotics builds cloud based software and applications to control UAVs.
Founded by 20 year old Pulkit Jaiswal, Garuda Robotics will delve into building software services to manage drones. A DPS Vasant Kunj alumni, Pulkit began research into the project 4 years ago, when he decided to build drones as a hobby.
A year into his honors scholarship program at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore, he dropped out to pursue his hobby and make it a business.
Currently bootstrapped, Garuda Robotics took off officially in August 2013, and is seeing investor interest from Asia. “Fundraising discussions are still on, we should hopefully have a confirmation by January,” he says.
Pulkit wants his cloud platform ‘Garuda Cloud’ to be the AWS of drone services. The Garuda Cloud will be built to allow businesses to control entire drone fleets from their browser.
Garuda looks to use its drone systems for mapping land surveys, monitoring crops to improve agricultural productivity, in the construction industry and in the oil and gas industry to survey areas to rig oil wells.
The startup currently uses off-the-shelf, commercial drones like quadcopter DJI Phantom for development purposes. On the anvil are hardware systems like quadcopters for surveillance and hexacopters for heavy duty mapping and logistics. They are also exploring fixed winged drones to use in long distance surveillance.
Pulkit says that its first drone fleet will be fully functional by Fall 2014. Garuda has decided to bank on surveillance based UAV usage to sustain the business until the civilian UAV industry takes off.
When Amazon chief Jeff Bezos announced that the world can soon expect thirty minute shipments via drones, he expected the publicity stunt to boost Amazon’s sales before Cyber Monday. What might have surprised even him, is increased interest and dialogue on using drones for commercial purposes. If news reports are to be believed then ‘drones for delivery’ and other civilian commercial purposes are inevitable in the near future.
Sounds of the UAV industry taking off can be heard from Alaska to Australia, China and even Congo, with players gearing up to take part in an industry that they hope will boom very soon . According to the Washington Post, in USA alone, investments into UAV related start-ups have accelerated with VCs pumping in over $40.9 million between January and October 2013.
Oil and gas companies are also their biggest clients currently, with the technology saving them millions in conducting surveys.Garuda is also looking at ecommerce companies.
Among concerns raised over the civilian use of drones are those of safety and more basic problems like how drones will avoid collision once deployed. In fact, there are no regulations over the civilian use of drones in most countries. USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was given a deadline by US Congress to set regulations for civilian UAVs to fly alongside commercial airplanes by 2015. But according to reports, they are nowhere close to issuing these.
However, Pulkit believes that most of the safety concerns can be overcome by their cloud systems as it provides a centralised source of control as opposed to the currently decentralised one.
When it comes to expansion overall, the company says that unlike most software companies, they don’t have a country by country list to expand into. They believe that their drones can be used by any company across the world to “get things done faster and cheaper”.
A Teal group survey puts the worldwide UAV expenditures at over $89 billion in the next 10 years. Surveillance drones aren’t new and there are many entrenched players providing such services to defense establishments as well as Wall street analysts!