India’s leading drone manufacturer IdeaForge is making a play for U.S. business with a line of light, high-endurance drones engineered to fly in the thin atmosphere and harsh climate of the Himalayas.
Armed drones are not on the menu yet, but IdeaForge CEO Ankit Mehta is touring American cities to show off the capabilities of surveillance drones that could be used by municipal governments for traffic, crowd control, law enforcement, and counter-terrorism.
Mehta told India’s PTI News on Friday that the “floodgates” opened for drone deployment in America after the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting American officials are a little more willing to conduct constant electronic surveillance, and the public is a little less squeamish about being monitored.
“We are seeing a lot of excitement about what we have on offer. The autonomy we offer again is very, very interesting and exciting for people, and we are currently engaging in getting as many demonstrations as we can and getting more real-world experience in the hands of the users over here,” Mehta said after a product demonstration in Washington, D.C.
The IdeaForge CEO said the American drone market is wide open because the longstanding aversion to surveillance technology leaves U.S. manufacturers racing to catch up with companies from India, which have years of experience in making drones for municipal governments.
“We have had our customers use our drones in over 420,000 missions within IdeaForge drones, flying almost every five minutes in India. It’s really a rich experience that we can bring to the table here, and we see a lot of commonalities with respect to very low temperatures, very high temperatures, and some high-altitude areas over here as well,” he said.
Mehta added that Indian companies enjoy plenty of skilled manpower working at highly competitive wages, a protective regulatory environment, strong government support for the drone “ecosystem,” and a good trading relationship with the United States.
“We also have in India a production-linked incentive scheme for drones. We have the fact that there is a ban on import of technology from outside so that Indian companies can develop the technology and be overall in an environment where we can demonstrate the capability of what Indian companies can do in this space,” he explained.
India, like the U.S., has “a very large number of terrain conditions and weather conditions,” so IdeaForge drones have been developed under the same conditions they would face in various corners of America’s varied geography. Mehta said his company’s drones have been developed to work everywhere from the soaring heights of the Himalayas to the sizzling deserts of Rajasthan.
One of the flagship IdeaForge products is the Netra V 4 Pro, a quadcopter drone with carbon-fiber propellers that weighs in at less than 15 pounds, can operate in high winds, and has a flight time of over 90 minutes over a range of ten miles. The Netra V 4 Pro can be carried by a single person to its deployment area and assembled quickly without tools.
“It is almost three times more than what is usually available in the market,” Mehta said of the drone’s endurance. “In that sense, there is a lot of delight in when [customers] actually see a product perform in that kind of condition, in that kind of real-world performance.”
IdeaForge has an Early Adopter Program for U.S. and Canadian customers that lets them “test and try” the Netra V 4 Pro for a demo period before buying the drone at a discount.
BNN News on Friday said IdeaForge’s entry to the American market is both “strategic” and “symbolic,” because American clients are looking for alternatives to the world’s other electronic surveillance powerhouse, China.
“Amid growing reluctance to depend on Chinese-made drones, the U.S. market is ripe for alternatives that promise security without compromise,” BNN said.
On the other hand, the report cautioned that IdeaForge will have to get past “stringent regulations, fierce competition, and a high barrier to entry for foreign manufacturers” to make a big impression on the American market, and it will need some early successes to maintain investor confidence.
“The entry of IdeaForge into the U.S. market is more than a business expansion; it’s a bridge between two nations sharing common democratic values and a vision for a secure and technologically advanced future,” BNN concluded on an encouraging note.
Shares of IdeaForge Technology rose up to 7.3 percent on Friday morning with news of its entry into the American drone market, before settling back to a 3.3 percent gain for the day.