Drona Aviation: Providing Innovators with a Robust Platform

Apurva Godbole, Drona | Insights Success | Indian Manufacturing

Apurva Godbole | Founder | Drona Aviation

The history of learning by doing is superannuated. That is how we all start learning about things and our surroundings as toddlers. Same holds true for technology too. The best way to learn a new technology is to start using it. There’s no match to hands-on experience and by using it, we step up the innovation in the said field. History is full of incidents wherein things were discovered or invented when scientists were actually working on projects of a different nature. The ecosystem that is created when people come together to work on or experiment on technology, techniques and science theories leads to better understanding and innovations that uplift the world. Aiming to create a similar ecosystem in India for drone innovation is an IIT Bombay startup – Drona Aviation. It is doing this through its educational and tinkering drone platform – Pluto. Arduino revolutionized electronics and Raspberry Pi changed computing. With Pluto, the founders aim to do the same in drones.
The Young Minds
The startup has been founded by Apurva Godbole, Prasanna Shevare and Dinesh Sain.
Apurva is a 2008 graduate of IIT Bombay.
Prasanna is a 2009 graduate of VIT Vellore and was a PhD student in Aerospace Dept. of IIT Bombay.
Dinesh is a 2014 graduate of Aerospace Engg from IIT Bombay.
The team has been working in the field of drones since 2010. Prasanna and Dinesh especially have led teams to drone competitions nationally and internationally and won awards. These include IMAV France, ICUG Spain, MICAV Bengaluru, Techfest Mumbai, Zephyr, BITS Goa among others. Prasanna Shevare was awarded Tech Mahindra Young Engineer Award for the same.
While working on these competitions, they faced a bunch of problems that slowed down their innovation process. They started Drona Aviation to solve these problems so that more and more people can jump into drone innovations and realize a $127 billion industry globally.
For Tinkerers and More
Drona is building Pluto drone platform. This includes hardware, software, content and community. Hardware includes modular crash-proof and easily programmable drone christened Pluto 1.2
Pluto 1.2 Pluto 1.2 is a DIY Nano-Drone that is easy to build and features the ‘Primus V4’ Flight Controller which can be programmed using Cygnus Open Source IDE.
This is accompanied by an API-based programming platform Cygnus. It also has a lot of learning content which has been adopted by the Niti Aayog as the formal drone module for their more than three thousand ‘Atal Tinkering Labs’ across India. The final component of this platform is the community of tinkerers where they build drone ideas and showcase to the world.
Handling Challenges with a Firm Belief
For a startup like Drona, which deals with consumer hardware, raising investments from the market is a major hitch. Also, the vendor network in India is still evolving so it takes special time and efforts to build those capabilities in India. This reduces the development pace and increases the time to the market for the products significantly. But, then entrepreneurial ventures are never without challenges!
The founders believe in the presence of a manufacturing ecosystem like China. They feel that entrepreneurs from India can compete only through open source collaborative development. With that context, they decided to build not only a product but a platform. A platform on which, tinkerers and developers can build their ideas and innovations and showcase to the world, to be precise. In the process, they are open sourcing portions of the hardware, all the software and learning content that they are creating is being open sourced to decentralize and democratize drone innovations.
Words of Experience
Apurva’s advice to fellow entrepreneurs and tinkerers is “Focus on understanding the problem statement and the pain point clearly. The more time you spend on it, the more ideas you’ll come up with for the best way to solve them. Once you have figured out one solution, build a prototype and deploy asap. It may not be the best but it will give you an idea of whether / how well does it work and what changes you need to make in it in the next steps towards the final solution.”
Focusing on the Future
Drona has strongly used 3D designing & printing for its initial prototyping and sales. It has also been working with some of the best available PCB manufacturers and assembly companies for its products, both at prototyping as well as final product stage. As the next steps, it will focus on reaching out to more schools and colleges and build distribution channels in the US and the Middle East.

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