Varuna- 2 is undergoing sea trials, Varuna-3, two passengers seating drone will be equipped with more advanced technologies: Capt. Nikunj Parashar, Founder & CEO, Sagar Defence Engineering
India is extensively indigenising the UAV/drone technologies in order to become a major manufacturing hub of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. In its quest to achieve its aspirations, Indian start-ups are exploring with cutting edge-technologies to put India on a world map.
While several start-ups have gained their foothold above land, Sagar Defence Engineering (SDE), is thriving to meet the never-ending needs of technology competency in the Maritime sector. With an innovation of India’s first passenger drone ‘Varuna,’ SDE has already marked their presence and further aspire to introduce updated version of the Varuna drone which which would eventually serve the purpose of boosting the strength of maritime sector.
In a candid conversation with The Quotes, Capt. Nikunj Parashar, Founder and CEO of Sagar Defence Engineering Pvt Ltd. shared the insights on VARUNA- India’s first human carrying platform- pilot less drone, company’s future plans and commented on government’s seriousness towards making the country UAV/drone manufacturing hub. Excerpts of the conversation.
Foremost congratulations on invention of Varuna, heavy-lift drone that can carry a human being. It is first such innovation in terms of payload of a drone in our country. What ignited the idea to create drone which can carry a human being? VARUNA drones are specifically designed for Indian Navy. Kindly explain the features of VARUNA drone which makes it eligible for the use of force.
Firstly, gratitude for showering team SDE with all the appreciation and your kind words. We are humbled by the reception and support accorded to us over the past few days from across the globe for Varuna. Varuna is definitely a dream project for the whole team. We had a vision but the Indian Navy, NTAC came on-board and gave this vision the wings to fly high.
We laid the foundation of the idea and led the team to work towards revitalizing the Urban Air Mobility space. His two years of rigorous hard work on this idea made it possible.
We received the required strength when one year six months back Indian Navy gave us the project to design and develop India’s first Personal Aerial Vehicle. The risk was definitely there to pull off such a huge project in a short span of time and with multiple hurdles but in the end, we feel proud that due to our team’s determination, perseverance, and willpower we could accomplish our dream project.
Indian Navy always gave us all the necessary support in due course of time. Varuna has been conceived by SDE to fulfil emerging requirements in the urban air mobility sector, as well as to serve the needs of our frontline warriors of the Indian Navy in the transfer of storage and personnel from one moving warship to another. It is specially designed to take off and land from a moving vessel and handle the extreme roll pitch situation during sailing. Along with it, Varuna is capable to contribute during emergency medical evacuations, rescue operations from remote locations, and mission-critical scenarios.
Stakeholders like Indian Navy, iDEX team, MoD, Mazgaon Dockyard Limited, MoCA, DGCA and ACT extended their support to Sagar Defence Engineering in their vision to create VARUNA drones. Kindly explain the contribution of every abovementioned stakeholder and how challenging it gets when a company work at different verticals with different partners.
Indian Navy in collaboration with iDEX team was definitely the first one who took their leap of faith in us and gave us the opportunity to develop VARUNA heavy-lift drone for them. But to begin the journey of Varuna, necessary financial support was required. This is where Mazgaon Dockyard Limited came on board and provided the funds for Research and development.
As the trial phase began MoCA, DGCA and ATC helped us with the necessary flying permissions, air traffic control, and monitoring which also resulted in the successful demonstration of “Lift Off Display” of the Personal Air Vehicle “VARUNA” with our Co-founder Lakshay Dang onboard in front of our Hon’ble Prime Minister and Chief Guest of Swavlamban 2022, Shri Narendra Modi Ji, Raksha Mantri and Guest of Honour, Hon’ble Shri Rajnath Singh Ji, and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. Hari Kumar, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC, Indian Navy, at Dr. Ambedkar International Centre, Delhi.
Ministry of Civil Aviation, Govt. Of India, also officially shortlisted us as one of the Drone Manufacturers in India under the incredible initiative of Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes for drones and drone components.
Such significant and landmark innovation must have had required quality team and collaboration of the best minds in the country. Kindly mention the name of few important players (engineers, designers, scientists etc) in your team who made crucial contribution throughout the process.
Our team worked constantly to give a shape to an idea into a revolutionary reality. Post-development, I got an opportunity to take the first trial flight of the indigenously developed Personal Aerial Vehicle “Varuna”.
• Mr. Mridul Babbar and Mr. Lakshay Dang, our two co-founders who personally handle the entire flying simulation, Flying operations, programming, and technical aspects of Varuna.
• Mr. Saurabh Patil, who contributed through his research and development skills, designed and assembled all the electronic components along with his team.
• Mr. Ankit Kumar and his team designed and manufactured the entire craft from the mechanical aspect. In fact, the batteries were manufactured in house under his guidance.
Kindly help us understand how many VARUNA drones have been deployed to Indian Navy. Has SDE received contract for more VARUNA drone? What kind of proto-types of VARUNA drones we will see in future? How has been the response from private stakeholders in regards with VARUNA drones.
Currently we are working towards perfecting and completing the sea trials of Varuna version-2 before the deployment of the craft to a warship. In near future, version -3 will be a two-seater passenger-carrying drone, equipped with much more advanced technologies and capabilities. It will be on the lines of Air Taxi to commute a shorter distance from commercial prospects but still would be able to serve its sole purpose of saving human lives during emergency evacuations and as an air medical ambulance.
Speaking of drone ecosystem in India, centre government has recently announced production-linked incentive (PLI) schemes under which it will deploy total incentive of ₹120 crore spread over three financial years starting 2021-22. SDE was amongst 23 beneficiaries of the scheme. How do you evaluate the development? Kindly explain how it will help drone manufacturers and drone component manufacturers in future.
The PLI program will put India on the map when it comes to drone manufacturing. Rather than the financial benefits, the recognition from the Government of India that made us apply for the PLI scheme.
The government’s initiatives in this sector, with the relaxation of norms and regulations, introduction of Production Linked Incentives (PLI) for market disruptors, and creating a level playing field vis-a-vis foreign OEM/sellers will be highly beneficial for the Indian drone manufacturers.
The ever-evolving use of drones in warfare, the MoD’s creation of a progressively more comprehensive negative import list which includes many categories of drones already made in India by Indian companies has also enabled a faster induction of Indian-built drones and other defence equipment into the Armed Forces and the incentives designated under the scheme would help in expediting the innovation cycle to develop more advanced technologies of global standards indigenously in our country itself.
Kindly share about the other significant inventions in terms of drones and UAVs by Sagar Defence Engineering. What’s the team aspiring in future?
We, the team at Sagar Defence Engineering, are always prepared to tackle the most pressing issues of the modern world with our cutting-edge technology and promise to go beyond the known boundaries in our pursuit of serving the country and saving human lives. Saying that we promise to keep working hard towards bringing out the revolutionary “New Age Mobility”, leveraging Autonomous mobility, Electric Mobility, and Deep Tech; playing our small part in bringing the dream of Aatmanirbhar Bharat to fruition.
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