INTERNATIONAL DESK: India’s first passenger drone Varuna, which has been built by a Pune defence company, will be showcased in the Navy tableau as part of the Republic Day parade on Kartavya Path on Thursday.
The Navy’s ‘Make in India’ activities are highlighted in the tableau’s main segment and Varuna underlines the importance of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ mission.
The drone, developed for the Navy by Pune-based Sagar Defence Engineering, can be used for medical evacuation, cargo logistics between ships and for the last-mile delivery, both on land and at sea. Varuna can also be used in land operations and for deploying soldiers in frontline areas.
Captain Nikunj Parashar, co-founder and MD, along with co-founder and vice-president (business development) Mridul Babbar and director Lakshay Dang are spearheading the drone programme.
An elated Captain Nikunj Parashar said, “It is a proud moment for us to have Varuna be a part of the Republic Day parade as Navy’s ‘Make In India’ initiatives and also addressing the IDEX Sprint Challenge.”
Speaking to TOI, company co-founder Mridul Babbar said, “We took over three years to develop this passenger drone. Varuna can carry a person with a payload of 130 kg for a range of 25 km for a flight duration of up to 25-33 minutes. It can be remotely controlled or guided through commands fed into its system. Land trials of this drone are already done.”
He said, “We have already received orders in double digit from the Navy for its production. Once domestic demands are met, we will plan its exports as we are getting a lot of requests from domestic and foreign buyers.”
On June 18 last year, company officials had made a demonstration of ‘Varuna’ before PM Narendra Modi, defence minister Rajnath Singh and Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar. “The PM then was quite impressed with it and asked us, ‘When are you starting its exports’,” the co-founder informed.
Crediting ‘Nari Shakti’ for the drone development, Mridul told TOI, “The lead software architecture for Varuna has been developed by our core women team members.”
He said, “The key objective of developing Varuna for the Navy is for transporting sailors or cargo between two warships sailing together at constant speed on high seas during emergencies. Usually, shifting men and material between two moving ships on high seas is quite challenging and it is currently done through either ropes or by helicopters. But Varuna will make this transportation process quite easy”.
On its safety mechanism, Mridul said, “The drone works on artificial intelligence and has four brains. If one brain stops working, the commands fed into it automatically switch over to the second brain. If all four brains stop working during its flight, then the ballistic parachute opens up and the passenger travelling on it is safely rescued.”
He said the company has applied for a patent and is also generating a lot of interest from private and foreign companies. (The Times of India)