Dubai: A high-tech drone delivery startup is not something that immediately comes to mind when you mention the city Lucknow in India’s Uttar Pradesh, better known for its rich cultural heritage and delicious cuisine. But that’s the story of Tech Eagle, a company that is pushing the frontiers of drone technology and regulations in India right now.
“When Tech Eagle was founded in 2015, the aim was to create the world’s largest and a one-of-a-kind drone logistics airline to serve healthcare, hyperlocal, e-commerce as well as defense,” said Vikram Singh Meena, founder and CEO of Tech Eagle. “During that time, nobody was even thinking about delivering goods by drone.”
But, just three years later, Tech Eagle became the first company in the world to deliver tea using a drone and there was no looking back after that. “From there, we worked with DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation), Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Airports Authority of India and a lot of other agencies to actually formulate the right kind of the policies and to enable drone delivery in the country.”
In 2020, Tech Eagle became one of India’s first companies to get approval for ‘beyond visual line of sight’ drone delivery on a trial basis. After the government liberalised drone rules this year, the Lucknow-based startup became the first in Asia to carry out cold chain vaccine delivery in the Indian state of Telangana.
“That was the phase one project, which we completed and now we are working with Telangana and the World Economic Forum (WEF) for a larger-scale deployment – that is in the process,” said Meena.
Working with Zomato
Tech Eagle’s collaborations are not just limited to the public sector - the company also conducted several trials with food delivery giant Zomato. “From November 2018 to 2020, we worked with them to assess how drone delivery for food will work in an urban environment,” said Meena.
The entrepreneur added that for now the company will focus on healthcare as it has applications in rural and semi-urban areas. “We would like to work with Zomato in the near future when we have better penetration in the urban environment and get all the regulatory and security clearances,” said Meena.
E-commerce penetration in India’s rural areas – where 60-70 per cent of the population resides – is quite low given infrastructure and logistical troubles.
“It is because products take around 6-10 days to be delivered in those areas,” said Meena. “But, internet connectivity is superb and if customers are given the one-day delivery service, they will take it.”
With the help of drones, companies will be able to deliver smaller-sized parcels to remote areas.
“When we bring out our 100kg payload drones, most of the e-commerce parcels will be delivered with our fleet. We are already working with a couple of e-commerce majors in India and around early next year you might see some of the operations happening in that segment also,” said Meena.
Looking for funds
Tech Eagle raised $500,000 in a seed funding round earlier in June and is now looking to raise a larger amount.
“We have already started the internal process (and) we are already seeing good interest from within India and outside as well,” said Meena. “We received a good amount of interest when we showcased at the Elevate startup pitching session in Dubai.”
Tech Eagle is not looking for just any investor – the startup wants a long-term shareholder with knowledge of the sector.
“We are looking for people who definitely have experience (in the sector) and can open up new doors,” said Meena. “They should also bring a lot of expertise and domain knowledge other than the money.”