Mumbai: Last year, many people out in the streets in Mumbai’s Dharavi and Worli areas may have been shocked to see a mysterious flying object from above instructing them to “keep social distancing” on behalf of the Mumbai Police. But soon, Indian cities and towns may get used to drones buzzing across the skies, making deliveries, doing surveillance, or even spraying pesticides.
Drone makers and service providers are ramping up their product offerings and stepping up hiring to meet a spurt in demand that is expected to accelerate with the government’s production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme set to boost production and bring down drone prices.
Drone companies in India, such as Aarav Unmanned Systems, ideaForge, Grene Robotics, Skylark Drones, and Skye Air Mobility, said their sales have grown 3-5 times in the last year, and they are all increasing their team sizes. Several international drone makers are also eyeing the market, said Mughilan Thiru Ramasamy, chief executive of Skylark Drones that provides software for drones. “We anticipate they will set up shop in India soon.”
Aarav Unmanned Systems, a Bengaluru-based drone manufacturing and end-to-end drone services company, plans to add 500-600 people in the next year. Most of those hired will be drone pilots, while some additions will also be made to the engineering and fabrication manufacturing teams, CEO Vipul Singh said.
The company, which supplies drones to Tata Steel and national mapping and surveying agency Survey of India among others, said demand had grown five times last year.
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Mumbai-based drone manufacturer, ideaForge Technology, plans to add 20-30% more people to its team of about 350 in the coming months. And for every new person it hires, there would be at least four more jobs created in the ecosystem, its cofounder and CEO Ankit Mehta said.
Bengaluru-based Skylark Drones, which witnessed 3x increase in sales since last year, plans to double its team of 30. It also plans to introduce more services around worksite intelligence, and introduce drone pilot training programmes by partnering with drone pilot training institutes, CEO Ramasamy said.
While a sizeable proportion of the new jobs being generated in the industry are on the manufacturing side and for drone pilots, jobs in allied services such as drone photography, drone maintenance, and survey mapping will open up soon, industry insiders said.
Rituparna Chakraborty, executive vice-president at TeamLease Services, said niche jobs such as drone photographer and filmmaker, drone 3-D modeller, drone pilot trainer, precision agriculture surveyor, drone surveillance, search and rescue, and wildlife conservation jobs would also open up in the sector in the long term.
While the Rs 120-crore PLI scheme for drones and drone components will help boost domestic manufacturing and create jobs, the real achievement will be to spawn a supplier ecosystem for the industry in India, stakeholders said.
Multiple drone manufacturers that ET spoke with said they rely on imports from countries such as China, the US and Germany for a large number of components including motors, communication systems and cameras.
“There is a need to attract a lot of international component vendors to come and invest in production capacities in India,” said Mehta of ideaForge. At present, overseas suppliers find little incentive in setting up operations in India. But with the PLI scheme set to encourage new use cases and applications, demand for drones is expected to skyrocket in coming months and years.