DRONES FOR ALL PURPOSES
11 December 2023. Times of India Coverage. As drone regulations mature and the technology develops, the day is not too far off when a drone ambulance could ferry injured defence personnel from remote areas. That’s something Chennai startup Dhaksha Unmanned Systems is working towards as part of its future product roadmap.
Born on the Madras Institute of Technology campus of Anna University, Dhaksha was a result of the visionary late President Abdul Kalam persuading a set of his researchers to work on drone technologies. “Dr Kalam recognised drones will be the future, and also gave the startup its name,” says Ramanathan Narayanan, CEO, Dhaksha Unmanned Systems.
“Kalam believed in Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, and it was he who guided our commercial decision to develop drones for both agricultural and defence use,” he adds. Kalam also helped the team by putting forward its development strengths to chief minister J Jayalalitha, who approved a ₹5 crore grant for Dhaksha. Today, Dhaksha designs and develops petrol-engine and hybrid (a drone with internal combustion engine coupled with an electric machine) drones for defence, agriculture spraying, remote logistics, mining sector, and other transport uses. With a facility at Ambattur and another opening soon at Sholavaram, Dhaksha is looking to double production. “Dhaksha’s strength lies in our R&D history of almost 20 years. This gives us the versatility to develop and make drones for various verticals,” Ramanathan says.
This R&D strength, comprising 35 core researchers and a few patents in the offing, is what attracted Murugappa Group’s agriculture arm Coromandel International to Dhaksha. Coromandel acquired majority stake in the drone startup in June in a deal valuing Dhaksha at more than ₹ 620 crore. With an order book of around ₹300 crore across defence, agriculture and other sectors, and with the backing of an agriculture behemoth, Dhaksha hopes to close the fiscal year with a 20x jump in revenue over last year.
Hailing from the automotive sector, Ramanathan is a proponent of extensive testing. Daksha has leased a separate space in green zones outside Chennai to extensively fly drones before releasing them in the market. Though critical components needed to make drones are still being imported, Dhaksha is hopeful of a robust make-in-India drones sector emerging in a couple of years. “The vendor ecosystem is developing. Today, while the localisation in the drones sector is 55%-60% by value terms, the way things are going we should soon be at 80% by 2025-26,” says Ramanathan.
DHAKSHA UNMANNED SYSTEMS
CORE TEAM | Ramanathan N, CEO, Dhaksha, and Krishnakumar R, CTO, Dhaksha. Advisors include Dr Senthilkumar (Director Centre for Aerospace Research MIT, Chromepet) and Dr. Mylswamy Annadurai (Ex-Isro Director)
Source – Times Of India