Interview with Vikram Singh Meena on 16 Apr 2022
Techeagle Innovations Pvt Ltd
Founder & CEO
Growing up in a village with poor access to healthcare, Vikram saw his family and the larger community suffer due to the inadequacy of basic and better medical facilities. After untimely losing loved ones to snake bites and accidents, Vikram was determined to solve this pivotal problem one day.
When he joined IIT-Kanpur in 2012, he was initially exposed to aviation as a hobby. IIT-Kanpur gave him a good understanding of research, development, and the operational aspects of drones and aviation. Early on in this journey, he developed drones, participated, and won in various national and international competitions.
In 2015, Vikram stumbled upon a problem. He routinely had to travel a distance of 100 km between Kanpur and Lucknow for paperwork for his international trips.
“During this time, we were developing long-range aircraft at the IIT-Kanpur private airstrip. While sitting with my friends one day, we thought, why not send packages to Lucknow instead of traveling all the way. It sent me back to my childhood and I dug deep into it and realised what a big problem logistics can be, and not just in the healthcare sector,” Vikram recalls.
“This is when I thought that I should get started because we have a big problem to solve, we have a solution, and we have the capability.”
He started walking on the path of solving problems he and his villagers faced, by founding TechEagle in 2015, with a vision to build the world’s biggest Drone Logistics Airline to save and improve billions of lives.
Our mission and objectives are stark and every team member aligns with them through and through. We envision creating the world’s largest on-demand drone logistics airline for package delivery in minutes to save lives, time, and money. We have been successful in achieving some of our goals by partnering with several state governments and are constantly striving to achieve the larger goal of manufacturing and designing drones that align with the rest of our goals.
TechEagle: Our startup is building and using DeepTech, so “Tech” is to summarise the Technology. We are building an On-demand Drone logistics airline and amongst the birds, Eagles can lift the heaviest payload and travel long distances and climb high mountains so our Drone can too. From there “Eagle” was derived.
So our Brand TechEagle: Technology-enabled birds which can carry a heavy payload, travel faster, farther, and climb high mountains.
Pioneers and front runners in every new technology and industry need to go through the high-risk factor. We had a strong vision and belief in our Team and Technology so we started and continued working with Govt. and Regulators to formulate the right policy framework in the country. After many years of efforts, India has liberalised Drone Rules 2021, the PLI Scheme, and the huge adoption of Drones within India. At TechEagle, We have most of the compliance and approvals in place to operate.
Anshu and I recognised that first-mile and last-mile delivery were major pain points. TechEagle was founded in July 2015, and our initial focus was on developing our first drone. We organised our first delivery in Lucknow in 2018 in collaboration with a local food delivery startup, OnlineKaKa. We even worked with Zomato for 1.5 years, conducting numerous trials and proofs-of-concept with them.
We received a lot of pushback from central agencies like the DGCA, MHA, and MoD when we were developing our e-VTOL drone. They would not allow the Hybrid E-VTOLs to fly, and we had to demonstrate the redundancy, safety, and reliability of our drones at every stage. It took about 1.5 years to develop this drone from design to production, and it was subjected to extensive testing that covered all of the necessary parameters.
In terms of the regulatory issue, TechEagle has seen the drone sector in India revolutionise by being an integral part of it. Despite the fact that drones were prohibited in 2014, we decided to launch TechEagle in 2015. Only the most insanely ambitious people, such as ourselves, could have imagined starting civil applications in that era. We worked with small industry organisations to streamline regulations from 2015 to 2018. Finally, CAR 1.0 for Drones was released in September of 2018. While it was far from the ideal set of laws, it was the first significant step toward establishing a legal framework for drones. Eventually, the industry began to comply with and enforce the laws on the ground, but it quickly realised that these constraints were not scalable, and it began collaborating to develop a new policy framework. The UAS Rules 2021 were announced in March 2021, after a lot of work, and they were a license raj (i.e., startups had to get approvals for RnD and any changes made during the RnD cycle also). There were over 50 forms that needed to be filled out, which was impossible to implement and was producing no results. As a result, the industry and other stakeholders banded together once more to fight for the appropriate approach, and the union government heeded the industry's call and repealed the UAS Rules 2021 in favour of the liberalised "Drone Rules 2021." Since then, the government has taken several progressive steps, including the PLI Scheme, Airspace Maps, Drone Import Ban, Drone Shakti, and the Honorable Finance Minister's unveiling of the Kisan Drone in Budget 2022.
Initially, in 2015, a suitable set of individuals that fit the company's concept was unavailable, which hampered the technological expansion process. We are now a strong team of over 25 clever and ambitious individuals who are continually working to bring the concept of a complex drone delivery network to life.
When it comes to Covid, the industry has experienced a tremendous increase as civic organisations recognise the potential of UAVs in situations where human aviation is unavailable. During the COVID-19 scenario, drones were employed correctly, and TechEagle drones were used in collaboration with Delhi and NCR Police to monitor and assure the upholding of government-sanctioned lockdown. Despite these benefits, TechEagle's expansion in terms of development and production was delayed by the closure of offices during lockdowns due to the nature of work-related drone manufacturing.
TechEagle is continually researching, developing, and manufacturing products for building a safe and reliable logistics airline and we are ready for mass production and deployment of Delivery Drones. We are working with various state governments and private industries to launch at a large scale.
Every business has its pros and cons and it all boils down to if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Looking at our previous flights, our full proof research while manufacturing the drones, and the multiple testing that all of our drones go through, I can say that the drones have more advantages than disadvantages without minimal risk of safety and security.
To begin with, shifting to a drone delivery network will ensure secured delivery, low operational costs, no traffic congestion, nearly contact-less and super fast delivery, and enable reverse logistics. These advantages over the current logistics network outweigh the disadvantages, if any, of using drones for mainstream operations and deliveries.
We currently operate on a B2B and B2G business model, offering our services to other firms, who then determine their delivery pricing based on their business strategy. While we do not yet know how other firms will incorporate drones into their operations, we are confident that drone delivery will cut operational costs and create safer forms of employment.
A drone can make the same delivery that a delivery person would take 1 hour in just 5 minutes. This will boost the number of deliveries, and the additional benefits of being contactless, with clients only being notified via a designated app, will make it much more practical and feasible.
In terms of consumer safety, the drone is outfitted with several security elements such as redundant propulsion, communication, multiple layers of failsafe plans, battery failsafe, and GPS denied circumstances to assure the highest level of safety. In the worst-case situation, the drone does not rocket down, and the parachute embedded in the drone aids in safely landing it at a safe speed.
Because of our years of experience and cutting-edge technology, we are now on the rise alongside the drone ecosystem. The liberalised Drone Rules 2021 and Budget 22 referencing Drone Shakti demonstrate the central government's clear aim to promote the expansion of India's Drone sector.
With this in mind, we estimate that the drone industry in India will grow at an exponential rate over the next 3-5 years, with applications in a wide range of niches and industries. Drone use reduces a lot of inefficient investments in the storage and delivery of things that can be easily moved in minutes with a drone. These characteristics will have a substantial impact on the growth of the sector. Finally, while we can't set a time limit on any form of development, it's safe to anticipate that the drone sector in India will be worth $10 billion or more within the next few years.