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With draft rules in place, Skylark Drones to deploy UAVs at Tata Steel mine

Jayajit Dash/Bhubaneswar 06 Dec 18 | 07:16 PM

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Skylark Drones Pvt Ltd, one of the fastest growing drone solutions companies in the country, aims to deploy its technology at Tata Steel's flagship Noamundi iron ore mines by the next financial year.  

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The Bengaluru-based start-up is already in talks with the steel monolith for a tie-up. The engagement could mean offering of a standalone software solution or the deployment of complete end-to-end solutions. Located in Jharkhand's West Singbhum district, Noamundi is one of the oldest operating mines in the country. 

"We have co-created India's first mine monitoring system with Tata Steel under the directives of the Indian Bureau of Mines. This encompasses three facets -- compliance, monitoring and surveillance. As part of this engagement, we will have drone-based analytical capabilities being used for compliance reporting, monitoring volumetric production and automating lease boundary management," said Gokul Kumaravelu, the marketing lead at Skylark Drones.

Drone solutions are expected to help Tata Steel operate their mines more efficiently and raise productivity, besides ensuring higher regulatory compliance.  

With the Ministry of Civil Aviation unveiling its drone policy and commercialising their usage, Skylark Drones is eyeing wider applications. "We have been awaiting regulatory interventions. Now, we are aiming to get our drones compliant by January or February next year," Kumaravelu said.   

The ministry's drone policy has gone live and online registration of drones has kicked off from December 1 this year. Flying drones or remotely-piloted aircraft has become legal in India from December 1 with the National Drones Policy coming into effect. The new policy, called 'Drone Regulations 1.0', clarifies where, when and how drones can operate within the country. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has designated five different categories of drones -- nano,  micro, small, medium and large. 

Besides Tata Steel, Skylark Drones is in advanced talks with three other major companies to deploy its solutions. The companies in question are active in the mining of key minerals like bauxite, copper and coal. "The engagement should begin towards the middle of next year," Kumaravelu said.

Skylark Drones has placed huge bets on the mining sector. The company expects mining to be one of its top three verticals, alongside infrastructure and solar power. "We started our operations in 2015 servicing legacy B2B (business to business) verticals. In this period, we have achieved scale in our core verticals of mining, infrastructure, agriculture and solar. In the process, we have crossed the initial stages of validation and finding the right product-market fit," he added. 

The technology is a web-based analytical platform that works by integrating data from different sensors to form different information layers such as 3D and thermal. It provides thematic analytics based on use-cases and applications. Though Skylark Drones has partnered with a few international tech companies such as Intel and Wipro, most of the technology that delivers value -- such as understanding actual mine layout in the context of engineering plans and haul road route optimisations -- to the mining customer has been developed in-house. 

"If a mining or infrastructure conglomerate needs to conduct a complete analysis of all their projects and assets using high-definition drone data as the basis, we can do it because of the distributed pilot networks we have that acquire data rapidly. Not just this, we have a unique delivery platform that makes it easier for end users in these companies to understand and use drone data without changing their systems or workflows," Kumaravelu claimed.  

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