[Tech50] How aviation tech startup Defy Aerospace uses drones to deliver emergency care to all Indians
It all started when Samriddhi Pandey was working on a Rolls-Royce aircraft engine project in Derby, UK as a compressor design engineer. A personal story of distress acted as a catalyst for Samriddhi’s wish to bridge the gap in emergency health care in India between service providers and beneficiaries, prompting her to explore several design options to develop a solution. Samriddhi is the founder of the aviation technology startup initiated Challenge the aerospace industry, which is one of Your storyTech50 2021 startups highlighting 50 most promising startups in India.
But what is the story that led to the genesis of the idea of Samriddhi?
“My grandmother, who was ill, needed A- blood, a rare blood type, within five hours in Varanasi. The distress that my family had to go through to bring her blood just in time to save her forced me to push for the technology that I casually explored as part of my curiosity as an aircraft designer, ” sharing Samriddhi.
But before she could develop a product, she had to understand the “exact unmet needs” of the industry she wanted to meet. “With virtually limitless applications of a drone product, the inherent need to help people in areas with limited access to emergency drug supplies seemed to be an area instinctively driven to explore further,” shares- she does.
After talking to several doctors, pharmaceutical companies and distributors, large hospital chains and local authorities for about two months, Samriddhi has assembled a database on the health problems in the heart of a country of 1.3 billion people.
Samriddhi was shaken by the fact that people in rural and tribal areas did not even have access to basic health care, were leaving with emergency care, and this was a point of frustration for her. She became optimistic about tackling this problem with the requisite technical knowledge and tools, and considered aerospace technology as a benchmark, in particular logistics drones, focusing on the following four areas:
- Blood, fresh frozen plasma and vaccines
- Emergency medicine for maternal and infant mortality
“This, in fact, led to establishing the values of building a technology that would help or save human life, and the planet that sustains it. It also reinforced the decision to consciously design new inventions that would use electric propulsion systems. In March 2021, I decided to come back to India with my concept: a long-range cargo drone capable of traveling 75 km with 6 kg of payload ”, recalls Samriddhi.
She began to develop this unique drone technology in India with a brilliant team of engineers in Mumbai and society Challenge the aerospace industry Pvt. was registered in April 2021.
Since its creation, Defy Aerospace has developed three projects:
- Long range cargo drone – Birdy FW
- Short range cargo drone – Birdy M
- Multipurpose drone – Solfox
According to Samriddhi, the startup has already taken several steps such as the critical design review, the development of prototypes, the first flight and even a patent application.
Dive into the drone-as-a-service space
The bootstrapped startup works with the Indian government, pharmaceutical companies and distributors, hospitals and pathology labs, among others. The company is targeting an ARR of $ 680 million by 2026.
In the B2B model, Defy offers the drone as a service as a turnkey solution including the drone, drone station and pilot, especially to pharmaceutical industry customers, enabling faster delivery of their products to remote areas. The startup also supplies drones to companies for direct purchase and provides accessories such as a drone station, software and pilot, on subscription.
The challenges of the drone industry
Samriddhi points out that the lack of defined regulations on aircraft design poses a challenge for the drone industry in India. A crude regulatory framework for commercial cargo operations for large drones and the reliance on other countries, especially China, for electronic parts and drone batteries also act as barriers. There is also a severe shortage of skilled unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) engineers, aircraft designers and nascent investment in R&D projects in India, Samriddhi says.
There is a huge opportunity for Indian electronics companies to gain a foothold in a booming drone market in India and really support the Make in India movement by building an ecosystem, she says.
The pace of the drone technology revolution
“We are currently developing unique drone technology in India and our goal is to capture 75% of the logistics drone market in India by 2025,” Samriddhi said.
“The main competitive factors that would make our users and customers depend on us would be the significant savings in time and money. This would not only have an impact on logistics operations, but also on their day-to-day activities, ”she adds.
Using the first come advantage, according to the startup, Defy Aerospace introduces reliable technology that would save lives at a cost that sustains a country’s economy and elevates its startups. “Our core values are to improve human lives and the country’s overall ecosystem. We believe in creating an environment that serves to include competition rather than disrupt it, ”Samriddhi shares.
Test flight for military applications and beyond
By 2023, Defy Aerospace plans to complete its test flight for military applications in extreme weather conditions like in Siachen.
In the long term, the startup plans to have a presence all over India and have an extensive network of drone stations. It hopes to hold at least 75 percent of the market share in India’s long and short-range drone logistics market, and grow rapidly globally with cutting-edge patent technology that can challenge businesses. European and American countries both in terms of production and operating costs, benefiting from a strong labor market and an economy that supports new businesses.