Sai Pattabiram

Sai Pattabiram


Right after finishing MBA in 1981 , the Road Less Travelled has always had a special appeal to Sai.

Starting out in early 1982, a career of 4 decades in India and abroad has been a career of experiences spanning new products across a range of Industries covering Composites , Manufacturing , Defense, Steel , Consumer Durables and Electronics.

Sai has nurtured & grown Sree Sai Aerotech Innovations Pvt Ltd (SSAI ) , Chennai recognized by the Department Of Science & Technology to be among a handful of India’s most technologically innovative company’s with clients spread across both the automobile and aerospace sectors .

The entrepreneurial journey led to a Globally Proprietary Artificial Intelligence centric Embedded Electronic control & communication technology that today is at the convergence of future Aerial and Ground Mobility marketed under the brand name ZUPPA.

ZUPPA products can work equally well on a Drone as well as a Driverless Taxi on the ground. ZUPPA is looking to address the electronic control and communication needs of the likes of Uber , Amazon & Zomato rising from the ground to meet the Airbus , Boeing and Bell coming down from the highest altitudes of thousands of feet .

1. What are your perspectives on the drone industry in India in the next few years?

A : The Indian, Asian and Global Drone industry is plagued today by the unscrupulous actions of Chinese drone suppliers selling their products in the black market.

For an effective industry to evolve, it can be supported by Chinese drone suppliers themselves as they have the locational details of each one of their buyers, in the absence of which, the only option before the Indian Drone regulatory authorities is to build systems that would identify and track existing illegally imported drones in India.

The good news is that the process has begun with the Indian Regulators finding answers for their problems in the Ministry Of Road Transports public vehicle tracking system.

With this breakthrough Drone regulations will be evolved with discussion with stake holders across the Indian Drone Ecosystem. The Commercial Drone Industry would be structured along corporate lines with the aim of enhancing compliance by reducing the number of entities to be regulated.

Identified No Fly Drone Zones will be Geo Fenced to minimize the risks of convergence of Manned and unmanned air traffic.

Effective regulation coupled with structuring of the industry into manageable registered entities will enhance compliance and strong business models for operators within the industry.

2. What do you think are the next milestones which should be completed to strengthen the UAS market?

A: Operators in the UAS market should look at the longer term benefits of being regulated and operating in a structured market and countries should start building internal capabilities in this critical “ Dual Use “ technology.

Hence it is critical for Drone operators around the world to engage with their regulatory bodies and support them in resolving this unregulated/unchecked Chinese proliferation that has occurred over couple of years globally.

3. According to many clients, the barrier to integrating a drone technology into an enterprise is still quite high. What do you think are the reasons for that?

A: It’s a case of using wrong tools for the Job eg using copters for large area and long distance applications is a case to point. There are lessons to be learnt from manned Aviation eg Airplanes are used for long distance flights high altitude flights copters are used for short range precise aerial operations . The same rules apply for Drones as well .

The use of easily available Off the Shelf ill-suited Drones is the cause for majority of such problems.
Technical knowledge at the clients end is also responsible for such observations.

4. Which industry vertical (Construction, Mining, Agriculture, Oil&Gas, etc….) offers the highest potential according to cost and time savings?

A: The much talked about and tried applications like Surveying, Mapping , Project Monitoring ( Photogrammetry ) and the likes face a serious challenge from improvements and lowering of costs in both satellite and traditional surveying methods like networks of CORS reference stations.

In addition, the global dominance, strangle hold of a few global majors in Surveying and Mapping like Trimble, Lieca, and Topcon coupled with the existing sizable investments by surveyors will be a challenging Mindset to overcome given the backdrop of poor outcomes from mapping experiments by ill-equipped entrepreneurs using the limited capacities of Chinese manufactured Drones.

Aerial Photogrammetry using manned airplanes has also not had dramatic success while satellite mapping and survey has been growing in leaps and bounds. Hence to be widely adapted, Drone based photogrammetry has quite a few significant challenges to overcome.

Hence the future of drone use lies in applications where they actually solve problems like Last Mile Mobility and Delivery rather than trying to compete with existing applications like surveying and mapping where the delivered benefit, is at best, marginal over current systems but the process changes required for adoption is huge. Similar is the case with relation to applications like Pesticide spraying in agriculture.

Given the above the more likely future application of Drones are likely to emerge in the areas of logistics, hyper local commutes ( aerial mobility ), disaster management, Law Enforcement, forest management, Insurance surveys, to name a few. The value delivered by drones in the case of these application will be significant as compared to currently available terrestrial solutions.

5. Which of the following challenges do you consider most important and why? Cloud software, drone delivery, BVLOS, multifunctional applications, hybrid platform (VTOL/fixed-wing), operational standards or others?

A: i) Creating a level playing field for domestic companies by way of a well regulated ecosystem that addresses both the past undue advantages enjoyed by Chinese Drone suppliers in the form of access to the Indian ecosystem through black market smuggled channels.

Chinese suppliers are welcome to sell drones and other products legally in India as long as they are compliant to Indian regulations, entering through legal official channels and paying the Taxes and Duties that the Indian Drone Manufacturers have to.

ii) Addressing the demand for legalizing the millions of smuggled drones currently available in India with the use of Regulatory Flight modules / GPS tracking

Most countries across the globe are plagued by millions of drones operated by Faceless Operators. The biggest challenge to the Drone Industry lies in identifying and onboarding these drones as a first step to creating an impactful industry.

6. Does the product life cycle of UAV platforms influence your business model?

Product life cycle will obviously affect operating costs and any business model.


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