The use of drones is currently a hot topic be it the Garud drone in the Bollywood movie Uri: The Surgical Strike, or the Heron drone which played a key role during the Balakot air strike by the Indian Air Force.
As technology has evolved, the application of drones has expanded into numerous fields like pollution monitoring, search-and-rescue operations, and even the detection of illicit activity.
Recently, during an air show called Aero India 2019, which was held at the Yelahanka Air Base in Yelahanka, Karnataka, alongside crowd-pulling pavilions and aerial stunts were the slew of initiatives undertaken by the Defence Ministry in association with the Drone Federation of India, who conducted the Drone Olympics Challenge. Three different categories were presented under this challenge — Surveillance Challenge, Supply Drop/Delivery Challenge, and Drone Swarm/Formation challenge. Hyderabad-based drone technology company, Thanos, won the Supply Drop Challenge wherein a weight of 2 kg payload was required to be delivered autonomously (without any operator inputs) over a distance of 2 km.
Co-founded by Pradeep Palelli and Prathyush Akepati, Thanos has provided its services as well as several in-house designed drones with varying capabilities to the government, the military, and to non-government entities.
Talking about the challenge, Pradeep Palleli says, “As a bootstrapped hardware startup, our financial resources are extremely constrained. We wanted to participate in a challenge that costs us the least and requires the least amount of time to build and test. Having expertise in heavy payloads and high endurance, the supply drop challenge was the obvious choice for us. We also wanted to build something that would take us a little closer towards having a market-ready product for the future.”
The participants at the challenge included some of the best drone companies in the country. “We were evaluated on a number of parameters that included the weight of the drone, the availability of necessary safety features on the drone, frequency of operation, the accuracy of drone landing, payload delivery location, and so on. There were also multiple rounds of testing challenges which tested the reliability and strength of certain mechanical fixtures of our drone,” remarks Pradeep. The Thanos team scored the highest points with 49/50, securing the first place.
Following their win at the Drone Olympics, the company has begun receiving inquiries from the Indian Army and other entities for Payload Delivery Drones. According to Pradeep, they are already working on improving their prototype to make it a commercial version. Apart from this, the company is betting big in the drone repairs and servicing space and plans on carving a niche for themselves.
“While there are already 1,000s of drones (mostly imported) in India, there is no major service provider for repairs of the same. The drone population will grow by a huge amount in the next two to three years itself, once the Government Drone Programme kicks off in a full-fledged manner,” says Pradeep. Over the past two years, Thanos has designed, built, tested, and made available, a market-ready agricultural spraying drone with a payload of 10 kg and flight time of more than 20 minutes. “This solution has already been demonstrated in several locations in South India, including several districts of Telangana such as Warangal, Yadadri, Bhadradri, and Nalgonda, among others,” adds Pradeep.