IISc, Boeing help startups take to the skies

IISc, Boeing help startups take to the skies

Even though India’s aerospace industry, which includes civil aviation and defence industries, has grown exponentially over the years there is a clear dearth of startups. This is primarily due to long gestation periods for product development and certification hurdles.

Within these constraints, the Indian startup ecosystem has evolved over a period of time to come up with aerospace startups with innovative products and services. Besides Indian public sector enterprises and research establishments, Indian aerospace startups are supported by big manufacturing houses who are finding big business opportunities in this space.

Talking to DH, IISc Entrepreneurship Cell Chairman C S Murali said it is relatively an unexplored area by Indian businesses. “But now we have been witnessing advances in space technologies and there are few startups who have come up with home-grown solutions,” he said.

Astrome, a space technology company, incubated at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru provides high-speed broadband internet from space for flying objects and ground stations, even to homes.

According to Murali, Bellatrix Aerospace is developing innovative technologies in the field of rocket and aircraft propulsion, defence and energy. “The company has come up with a technology to use water as a fuel in further thrusting the satellites into outer space. Kota Harinaraya founded General Aeronautics designs and makes unmanned aerial vehicles or drones focused on security and civilian applications,” he said.

Boeing’s India Engineering & Technology Centre (BIETC) along with T-HUB launched Boeing HorizonX India Innovation Challenge in 2018. The initiative has selected three aerospace startups -- Merxius (develops an extended reality (XR) authorising software for non-coders), HuviAir (unmanned aircraft services and software solutions for surveying and workflow management) and ZestIOT (provides airport and airplane IOT technologies).

India remains a country which has made a remarkable contribution to the aerospace field and space research. In recent years many new companies are emerging in the aerospace field and many top aerospace companies in the world are starting up their offices in India. The boom in the aerospace industry gives a boost to a lot of new promising projects in this field.

“In the aerospace sector, this value chain is evolving and it will take time. The maturity of Indian startups in this space will also take time and there are lots of hawkish international regulatory hurdles preventing its growth,” said an industry analyst.

According to a recent study by India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), India is expected to become the third-largest aviation market by 2020 and the largest by 2030. In addition to low-cost carriers, project UDAN will create infrastructure in 100 airports so that aerospace startups can provide solutions, hardware, and services to the sector.

Omnipresent Robot Tech founder Akash Sinha said Indian aerospace startups should focus on ancillary services they can deliver. “Our startup is focusing on drone-related services delivery and now we have tied up with more than six states. Our mapping solutions are used in crop lifecycle management, pest control, security monitoring, and township development among others,” he said.