The foundation of growth for drone technology was laid down by new "Drone Rules 2021" announced in August 2021. Efforts are on to make India a global drone hub by 2030. By 2025, India is anticipated to be the world’s third-largest drone market. Companies are changing their stance and adopting drone technology. Take the mining sector, for instance. These companies are spending heavily to equip themselves with drones for regular business operations.

Meanwhile, infra companies, with expertise across segments like oil and gas, power, railways, and road transport, are increasingly using drones to augment capabilities and enhance productivity. They are relying on drones to monitor the progress of projects and for inspection purposes.

There are other use cases of drones as well. In this article, we look at the top Indian companies which are betting big on drones.

1 Paras Defence & Space Technologies

The newly listed Paras Defence, via its subsidiary Paras Aerospace, has tied up with a few unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturers in Israel, Latvia, & Italy. It has tied up with Fixar from Latvia which designs unique Angular Rotor drones, useful for specific missions in low air density applications and to have long endurance.

Meanwhile, Nurjana Technologies from Italy provides systems engineering and system development capabilities for real-time applications in aerospace. Paras Aerospace has a wide range of verticals such as military UAV, industrial UAV, drone parachutes, among others. It primarily focuses on drones related aerospace technology development.

Paras Defence, which listed in October this year, received huge response in its IPO and broke all records of subscription. The offer was subscribed nearly 304.3 times despite the company’s weak financials.

2 Zomato

In December 2018, Zomato acquired TechEagle, a Lucknow-based drone start-up, which will help the online delivery platform to create a hub-to-hub delivery network powered by hybrid multi-rotor drones.

The company is betting big on drones, hoping that drones will make food deliveries more efficient and cost-effective.

How is Zomato betting big on drones you ask? As per reports, a commercial drone will cost upwards of ₹ 60,000. The price for an industrial drone can run beyond ₹ 10 lakh. Comparatively, a Zomato delivery associate is paid less than ₹ 20,000 a month.

But here’s the thing. In June last year, Zomato parted ways with TechEagle, putting a huge question mark on its plans to deliver food through drones. After this partnership ended, Zomato tied up with telecom major Vodafone Idea to join DGCA’s BVLOS sandbox. BVLOS drones are long-range UAVs, which enable providers to conduct complex operations and facilitate drones to fly without any human interference. These drones are primarily operated in the infrastructure inventory, for monitoring large areas and creating orthophoto maps and hub-to-hub delivery among others.

What Vodafone Idea does is provide LTE support to the drones, where the drones will be attached with a Vodafone Idea SIM device, which will be connected to the local network to gather data like weather details, battery status, and distance among others.

It’s not just Zomato. Swiggy and Dunzo are also among the companies testing out using drones for delivering food, medicines, and essential items.

Did you know that Zomato was initially started as a search and discovery platform? Since then, Zomato has added other feathers to its cap: deliveries, takeaway, table reservation, B2B food ingredient supply, and so on.

Here’s how the stock has performed since listing on the bourses.

3 Zen Technologies

Zen Technologies is a drone tech company and a leading provider defence training solutions, headquartered in Hyderabad with offices in India and USA.

It has applied for over 90 patents and shipped more than 1,000 training systems around the world.

In September this year, the company secured a ₹ 1.6-bn order from the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the supply of counter unmanned aircraft systems (CUAS). This was the first major order for Zen technologies in the anti-drone space.

Since the order news came out, the stock has been in news. Shares of the company more than doubled in just a month’s time back in September!

The company has a strong order book. The new drone rules, PLI scheme, and the defence ministry allowing increased use of simulators have given Zen Technologies a boost. The company’s MD Ashok Atluri has backed Aarav Unmanned Systems (AUS), a Bengaluru-based drone solutions start-up.

4 RattanIndia Enterprises

Before the new drone rules were announced, RattanIndia Enterprises made an investment in US-based Matternet, the world's most extensive urban drone logistics platform.

Back then, it announced the formation of an Indian subsidiary to kickstart the drone business in India.

Well, the Indian subsidiary is here. In September, RattanIndia Enterprises announced the launch of its drone business with its wholly-owned subsidiary NeoSky India.

NeoSky India will develop a cutting-edge drone system platform, focusing on industry applications in India. The company appointed Peeyush Kumar, a former CEO of Pixella - an India-based drone company, as the head of its drone business.

Shares of the company are on a tear this year, offering stellar 1,500% returns in the past 15 months.

‘Drones' is not the only buzzword helping the stock. It has also backed electric vehicle firm Revolt.

As the company is foraying into new-age technologies, the market has factored in the news.

However, on the fundamental front, the company has little to offer. The company had no sales to report until the second half of financial 2020-21. Moreover, at the end of September 2021, the company had ₹150 m of net debt, up from none a year ago.

5 Info Edge (India)

Info Edge (India) has made investments in Bangalore-based Skylark Drones.

In July 2021, Skylark Drones raised US$3 m (about ₹ 220 m) in its pre-Series A funding round co-led by Info Edge Ventures and Indian Angel Network (IAN) fund.

Founded in 2014, Skylark Drones provides work-site intelligence to enable accurate business decision-making using drone data. Note that Info Edge, one of the oldest internet companies in India, has been going heavy on start-up investments over the past few years.

From recruitment solutions to education-related portals, Info Edge has played a vital role in the development of Indian start-up ecosystem.
6 DCM Shriram Industries

In August this year, DCM Shriram Industries announced an arrangement with Zyrone Dynamics, a Turkish UAV, and drone manufacturer. Under this arrangement, 30% of the firm's shares were bought by DCM Shriram Industries for US$1 m, giving it a total valuation of US$3.5 m.

DCM was looking to invest in Zyrone for a long time but due to the pandemic conditions, the negotiation period stretched to 18 months.

Under the partnership, Zyrone will be providing DCM Shriram Industries with technological support and both parties will support each other in marketing the products in India and around the globe.

DCM Shriram Industries has been in drone manufacturing business for a long time now. In 2018, the company had received a license from the government for manufacturing about 3,500 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), bullet proof vehicles and other products.

In fact, the company did set up India’s first private sector unit for manufacturing drones in 2018.