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AWS, DFI Powering India’s Commercial Drone Innovation

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With capabilities that range from delivery to surveillance, along with unprecedented levels of efficiency, the growth of commercial drones is inevitable

The market for commercial drones is growing phenomenally across the world as more companies are utilizing drone technology to improve their efficiency and speed up service delivery. India’s usage of commercial drone was relatively nascent, but the recent announcement by Drone Federation of India (DFI) making Amazon Web Services (AWS) its preferred Cloud service partner, can open up new avenues of innovation around the drone ecosystem in the country.

Developing a drone ecosystem

The non-profit industry body will work with retail giant Amazon’s Cloud arm to help provide a scalable, agile and secure cloud infrastructure for drone manufacturers, application developers and operators to develop drone applications and accelerate time-to-market in India.

The collaboration will identify use cases for drones in India across various application areas such as land survey, precision agriculture, disaster management, and search and rescue missions, and build custom cloud-based solutions for them. DFI will also establish a drone innovation and operations hub in India to support drone-based innovation in the country, using AWS Cloud services. The hub will prototype and develop drone applications involving the drone ecosystem in India, comprising of startups, government bodies, and policy makers.

Drone deployments, come with heavy requirements in data processing and warehousing. With map-based analytics becoming the next frontier in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) based decision-making, reliable data warehousing capabilities for on-demand access to decision-making data is pivotal. DFI and its partners will leverage AWS’s compute instances, storage services, and database services including Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon Aurora for drone applications, an official statement said.

According to Rahul Sharma, President, India and South Asia Public Sector, Amazon Internet Services Pvt. Ltd (AISPL), verticals like agriculture, healthcare, smart cities etc will see massive drone deployment in months to come, helping enterprises test new ideas quickly, and accelerate innovation to better serve citizens and impact society positively.

As Rahat Kulshreshtha – President, DFI says, “For food and medicine deliveries by companies, autonomous aerial transportation, large scale business transformation in mining, roads, and disaster management via drones, we will require the power of cloud computing and strong data-based workflows.”

Security remains a concern

The global drone market is expected to grow from $14 billion in 2018 to over $43 billion in 2024.  The growth of commercial drones is also inevitable, but its safety and secure operation (or lack, thereof) remains a valid concern in India as it is in the rest of the world.

In the US for example, drones are becoming a threat to people’s privacy since they can be used as spying devices. Some drones can even see through walls by employing Wi-Fi and 3D imaging, enabling criminals to access critical information in the government, end users and enterprise.

Besides, drones can now be used to hack servers, spy on networks, extract data, and block communications. Corporate networks can be heavily affected by the malicious use of drones, so companies need to have solid security measures in place to prevent unwanted access and protect themselves from cyber warfare attacks.

Currently, the Indian government is keen to have a database of drone users given the security implications of using this equipment. A report published on Times of India quoted aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, as saying, the process of registering drones, will begin around January 13 that will help in tracking these equipments for safe operations even in green zones or areas where they will be allowed.

Also experiments on using commercial drone “beyond the visual line of sight” (BVLOS) range will begin this month – paving the way for commercial use of drones in India keeping in mind safety protocols.

India currently has nearly 100 drone startups and the autonomous drone aviation industry has great potential ahead. Greater collaboration and innovation in the drone industry around vision-based navigation systems, which equip drones with ML, IoT and vision-based features like indoor and spatial navigation, will further improve safety in advanced collision avoidance and other areas, believe experts.

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