Drone, are complex flying machines that can be remotely controlled. These days advanced drones are capable of flying autonomously working in conjunction with onboard sensors and GPS to plan their path and navigate through obstacles. As awareness and demand for drone technology is increasing day by day, drones are finding uses in different applications such as Agriculture, Traffic monitoring, parcel delivery, etc.
CerebroSpark Innovations is one such company that is developing cost-effective, easy-to-use drones with visionary engineering designs. CerebroSpark Innovations is a drone manufacturing company which is based in Pune, India, and prides itself in making indigenous drones. The vision of the company is to emerge as one of the most dynamic and multidimensional drone companies in India and focus on the quality-based manufacturing of drones.
To know more about the company, we had an exclusive interview with the co-founder of CerebroSpark LLP, Mr. Mihir Kedar, who shared details about the company, the services they're providing, and much more.
Q. Explain in brief about your company, CerebroSpark Innovations LLP, and what is the vision by which you started the company?
CerebroSparks Innovations LLP is focused on making indigenous drones. The company is founded by me and Ganesh Thorat. We started when I was in my first year and Ganesh in second year, we started working on drones and drone technology and we completed a lot of projects, but later we realized that most of the drones projects and companies in India are dependent on the Chinese drone market, either they are dependent on the Chinese market for complete drones or their components like motors, controller ESCs, etc, and that was the time when we realized that something should be done to indigenously develop these things in India. From there we came up with the idea of CerebroSpark Innovation. When we started the project we were, nine of us, Me, Ganesh, and other members were there, unfortunately, they couldn't continue with us for the project and had to leave. Later, when we thought of incorporating our company, Ganesh and I, we were thinking of some name for the company, and at that time CerebroSpark came into our mind. CerebroSpark, is a combination of two words, Cerebro which means a part of the brain, and the 2nd word is Spark, which basically means to turn on your brain. So, two founders had two words coming together making one company, that was the whole story of it. Currently, we are working on different types of drones and are making them indigenously. Moreover, we are into manufacturing as well as providing services. So, these are the two segments that we are working on. At present we have a team of 6 people, apart from me and Ganesh who are the Co-Founders, we also have Shyam, Janhavi, Neha, and Rushikesh who are handling different departments in our company.
Q. What kind of services do you provide and what are the products of your company?
We majorly have two products; our first product is CS PRIDE which is India's first BLDC nano category drone. Nano category means that the weight of the drone is less than 250 grams. The significance of that is you don't require any licensing registration to fly that drone and anyone can fly it. The word PRIDE stands for Personal Remotely-Operated Indian Drone Entity and even if we are selling our CS PRIDE in the international market, the Indian word will always be associated with it. So, that was the first product which we are going to launch in December. The other one is CS MAMBA which is a heavy-duty quadcopter drone with a payload capacity of 5.6 kgs. This one can be used for delivery purposes or disaster management, surveillance, and many other applications.
Coming to the part of the service, we work in two segments, one is the customized drone service in which we make drones as per the requirement of our client and the other segment in services is that we take such contracts in which we either do the air surveillance, shooting, mapping or maybe social events where we use drones to make a social impact.
Q. You recently used your drones for carrying Ganpati idol. Which drone did you use for this purpose and do you have any future plans to enter the drone delivery market? And has any company approached you about drone delivery?
The idea of carrying the Ganpati idol on the drone was very sudden and one of our team members gave us the idea that we can use a drone to carry the Ganpati from one place to another. We used the CS MAMBA drone and had to make certain adjustments in the design part because when we mounted the Ganpati on the top of it, we had to make sure that it doesn't fall off as there are a lot of sentiments attached to it. The other thing was the propellers, we had to mount them upside down because if you're mounting it on the upper side, they could hit the idol. We successfully completed this task and it was a good activity.
We are looking for a delivery type of system in the drone. CS MAMBA is the multipurpose drone in which delivery is an application and it can be used for that. Currently, this product is not launched yet, we are still developing it and making it more efficient. We will be launching the completed product soon and maybe then we can think of actually delivering goods with it.
Q. Could you please elaborate the features and specifications of CS PRIDE and CS MAMBA?
CS PRIDE is a personal remotely operated Indian drone, entity drone that weighs less than 250g. It is a nano category drone and is an import substitute for the Chinese drones, which are being used in India. The basic application of this CS PRIDE is surveillance and photography. We are providing a 4k camera with 35 minutes of endurance along with multiple flight modes. One can easily fly it and even if a person who hasn’t flown any drone can fly CS PRIDE without any difficulties. Also, just in case if he is not able to fly it, we are also giving autonomous flight. Along with that, this drone is waterproof as a lot of times in rainy seasons slight drizzling may occur while flying the drone and this can damage the drone. But in the case of CS PRIDE, we have completely eradicated that part and one can easily fly it. The other thing is when you're flying above a water body, and in case the drone crashes or some malfunction occurs the drone fall in the water. In our case, even if the drone falls in the water or puddle, the internal damage will be zero because it is waterproof. So, these are the type of features that we have added to CS PRIDE, which is making it better and reasonable in comparison to the Chinese drone.
CS MAMBA is a heavy-duty quadcopter, small category drone with a payload capacity of 5.6 kgs. If you see the other drones which are being used in the market, they are used for one application only. But CS MAMBA can be used for multiple applications. If you want to use it for surveillance, you can just attach a camera module. There will be multiple attachments like camera module, spring system, delivery systems, you can just change the attachment and the drone can be used for a different application. These are the points that we innovated in CS MAMBA.
Q. What is the range and fly duration of both the drones?
We have built CS PRIDE as per the DGCA rules and regulations. DGCA says that you can fly without any permission in a closed environment, that is line of sight and there is a limitation over there. So, we have added a limitation to CS PRIDE of around 150 meters and the height is 50 meters which, can be adjusted and we can increase that to two kilometers and 500 meters respectively. CS MAMBA has a range of two kilometers which can be extended up to five kilometers and height can be around 500 meters to one kilometer.
CS PRIDE has an endurance of 35 minutes, and CS MAMBA, has an endurance of 30 minutes but we are working on increasing that to around an hour.
Q. Do you develop the software, and other parts like motors or ESC in-house or procure them from Indian manufacturers?
We are procuring it from the Indian manufacturers and have made agreements with different manufacturers of motors, the chassis, etc. So, we are not depending on the Chinese market and everything we are using right from motors to controllers is made in India. The vision of our company is actually to eradicate and remove the dependency of India on the Chinese market because if you see the Indian drone market is growing at a very high speed, but if it is dependent on the Chinese market, the Chinese market is growing instead of the Indian market. So that is why we have decided to come up with Indian products only. Moreover, we have a team of engineers working with us for developing software.
Q. As the cost of the battery has been overshot by 20%-30% due to the energy crisis in China. Is it affecting your sales and the cost of your drones?
It is affecting us currently, we are still in the prototyping phase, hence we are using the Chinese battery, but we have an agreement with an Indian battery manufacturer, who has agreed to develop our specifications of the battery. We will be starting the manufacturing in a few weeks and then I don't think the Chinese energy crisis will affect our drone price. Although it will affect the r&d cost, it will not affect the actual price of the drone.
Q. Could you tell us more about the kind of sensors, software, and algorithm you will be using? Will you be developing your algorithm or will be clubbing with another company to develop the same?
Traffic management, virtual doctor, and surveillance are the projects we started as engineering projects. They're not closed up and we are still working on them, but we have put them on a slight hold because the infrastructure which is required to deploy these drones is not yet available in India. For example, if we use a drone for traffic management, and suppose a drone with signals (both visual and audio) is trying to communicate with you then as a driver, do you think you will be listening to that drone? Because if a person violates, we don't have those many cameras and sensors with the traffic police department to capture and make sure that everyone is listening to these drones.
The second part is that when these drones are flying in the city you will require the control room for these drones along with proper permission from the DGCA and local police. In case, that drone crashes for instance, a bird strikes and the drone falls on someone's head then who will be responsible. These limitations were there that is why we had to put these projects on hold. We are still developing and trying to make these groups effective and ready for use. But there are different aspects that we still have to think about before actually deploying these drones.
We spoke with the RTO Authorities, traffic police and conducted real-time testing in Pune which was pretty successful. But in real-time scenarios, there could be multiple, like millions of different obstacles that can come in such working and that is why we are still developing and thinking of different ways to overcome these problems. Hopefully, very soon we'll be able to get these products on the market.
Q. A couple of months back, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) came up with a new drone policy. So how is it affecting you and other drone manufacturers in India?
We don't have to do any type of changes and the good thing with these new drone policies is that for a start-up or students who are developing drones, these rules have made it very easy to procure material or to do the testing of it without any permissions required. It has given the boost and a platform to all the new players in the market, that they can develop this technology even more. If you see the market size recently, there was an article by the Times of India that said that from this year, the drone market size is around 60 crore and by 2023-24 the market size is going to increase up to 900 crores. These rules have given a boost and a lot of companies that are working on drone technology have come up and are doing the testing for different types of drones. Maybe in the coming 5-6 years, we'll be able to see drone taxis in the market and maybe those drone taxes will be indigenously made. It has given a really good platform and has supported all the people who are working on loans. Secondly, new incubation centres have been opened specifically for drone start-ups for manufacturing or giving services and drone technology. It will scale up the market and will also give advancement to drone technology.
Q. Can you list out a few points about the policies like what are the changes and new regulations compared to the previous one? And how these regulations will affect a normal flyer or a newbie?
Yes, there are a few points which you should be very careful about. The first point is that you should be knowing all the no-fly zones as a flying drone in a no-fly zone is strictly prohibited and there is a penalty of approx. 1 lakh of rupees for that. The good thing is that the new rules and regulations have decreased the radius of no-fly zones. The second point is that nano category and micro category drones require a license or permission to fly. If you're flying in a no-fly or no green zone then these are the two points which an individual should be knowing.
The other points regarding the manufacturers and service providers are that if you are a start-up, and you are doing research and development on drones, then you don't require any type of licensing or registration to do the testing of the drone. So earlier, you had to take permission and register even if that drone was not ready for the market. Even if the drone was a prototype, then also you had to do the registration of that drone. As students, when we started this, then registering our drone was a very tedious thing to do, and instead of doing that we would give up and do some other projects. Now, that limitation has been taken off the student's life or start-up life that we have to run for permissions before starting working on a drone. It is a very good step to increase the productivity of a start-up and to increase the development of drone technology. These are the few points that were changed in the new Drone policies.
Q. What are the features and benefits a nano category drone has over larger drones in terms of control capability or the range?
Nano category drones are smaller in size, lighter in weight, but the processing capacity of these drones is not up to the mark. We have built CS PRIDE in such a way that it is a toy category but is capable and so advanced built that you can perform industrial applications with this drone. It can take images, can do surveillance, and can be used by industrial people to do the surveillance of their factories. It can be used by police to do the surveillance and take photographs and maintain law and order. These types of things can be done with CS PRIDE. The advantage of a nano category over a larger category drone is that the nano category is easily portable and you can fold the drone, keep it in your pocket and just move around with it.
The other part is that the nano category drone is less harmful to people like in case they fall on someone, it will not damage or be fatal for that person. But in case a bigger larger drone falls on someone the damage will be quite crucial. The handling part and the endurance are the same as the larger drones, there is not much difference in that.
Q. Could you please tell us more about the journey? What all challenges did you face in managing the studies along with bringing up the company?
I started in my first year and had good support from my teacher and my parents but there was a time constraint coming. We had exams coming up and at the same time, we had to demonstrate our product to different people. But when we say that where there is a will there is a way so something of that sort happened with me. We were working on our first project and after six months of research and development, one month of procuring the material, we assembled the whole drone. During the first flight only me, Ganesh, and a few members were present over there and later we decided to show it to our guide. Unfortunately, our drone crashed in pieces in front of our faculty. We felt discouraged and decided to build this drone from scratch again. We worked the whole night and complete the whole assembly and got a nice flight the next day. Doing a project will give you confidence, you will use your skills and apply your knowledge in real-time application. I used to pay complete attention during the lectures and memorize things as well as understand the concept so well, that I didn't have to come back home and revise the whole thing.
We were called by IIT Madras for the shastra event to exhibit our product, the traffic management drone. The event was clashing with the university exam dates, so we took the flight in the evening and reached shastra by midnight. I think if you're working hard, then luck will always be in your favor. These were the difficult times that came. The second problem, which I faced was that we didn't have drones in our syllabus. When we started researching, we had no reference that where to start from.
There could be multiple projects, which are not being taught in the engineering subject, but you have to work on them. Connect with industrial people who have been working on these things and get information from them, because they have the experience and actual knowledge of such projects.
Q. Any advice for young professionals who are trying to come up with their start-up should do?
The incubation helps a lot. We are incubated at multiple Incubation Centre. These incubation centres provide a lot of knowledge and they give good mentorship to the start-up. As of now, we are incubated at AIC (Atal Incubation Centre), MIT, ADT, and PCSIC (Pimpri Chinchwad start-up Incubation Centre). These incubation centres have played a big role in our success as they provide us with guidance, good monitoring, and industrial knowledge. So, I would advise young entrepreneurs, especially those who are trying to build their very first company to connect with an incubation center as they will help them with technical mentoring as well as help them with their business models and managing finances.