Entrepreneurs Mughilan Thiru Ramasamy and Mrinal Pai have known each other since they were pursuing engineering degrees from RV College of Engineering. During their time at college, the duo was also a part of Team Vyoma, an aerodynamics club where they built unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
With a passion for innovations in the drone sector, the duo launched Bengaluru-basedto provide worksite intelligence and enable accurate business decision-making using drone data.
Speaking to YourStory, Mughilan explains that drones were very new to the market in 2014 and most people were of the view that they could be used only for delivery purposes.
“Since we had built a lot of drones by then, we knew the potential was far greater than just delivering goods or things like that. When we started from a garage, we sat down to think about various uses cases for drones. We felt that almost every sector could use drones.
“From a very small garage with two people and no capital, we hustled our way into multiple enterprises and industries, learning from customers as well as ourselves on the possibilities. We did all of that and basically built Skylark into what it is today. So, Skylark Drones is a drone platform software company,” Mughilan says.
Image Credit: Skylark Drones Website
Providing drone analytics
Skylark Drones is involved in building core infrastructure for global drone ecosystems.
“We build software for drone manufacturers and drone users for piloting drones, fleet management, flight management, and regulatory clearances to solve safety, security, and privacy issues. We also build software for enterprises for drone data analytics,” Mughilan says.
The core products are Drone Mission Ops and Spectra. Drone Mission Ops is a full-stack drone flight solution that enables drone service providers, pilots, and enterprises to execute fast, accurate, and seamless drone missions.
Meanwhile, Spectra is an integrated drone data platform for enterprises to visualise their worksite and get AI-powered analytics for making better business decisions.
Speaking about applications, Mughilan says, “We help with how best a mining company can utilise drones and figure out how much volume has been excavated. We can help with how much construction progress is happening on a solar site. We can talk about asset health with respect to power transmission. Drones have widespread uses in all sectors and we help enterprises use them very effectively. We give them data on work sites, the problems, and recommendations to fix them.”
Mrinal explains that a drone is a medium to collect data. The end-users, i.e. businesses, need actionable insights from this data captured through drones for commercial applications. He adds that software is going to be the value driver for commercial application of drone data.
“There is a tremendous value for the software stacfck or, as we call it, the drone stack of software built on top of the hardware for flight planning, mission planning in the right way, and also interface with the regulatory environment. It will help understand what has to be done with the captured data and how can it be converted into meaningful insights,” he says.
Illustration: YS Design
Business and more
The co-founders explain that the startup has a platform-based business model – it charges clients for using the software platform. It has clients across industries such as mining, infrastructure, renewable energy, and agriculture.
It works with popular brands such as Balco, HINDALCO, Hindustan Zinc, TATA Steel, Ultra Tech Cement, SAIL, L&T, Reliance Infrastructure, ReNEW Power, BOSCH, URS, and many more.
Skylark Drones claims that it has worked with over 100 enterprises and executed over 20,000 autonomous flights via their platform, processing more than one million images since inception.
Mughilan says Skylark also provides additional services to its clients such as training their staff and pilots. Going forward, it is also considering services such as connecting clients with drone manufacturers.
In July, Skylark Drones raised $3 million in a pre-Series A funding round led by InfoEdge Ventures and IAN Fund, with participation from AdvantEdge Founders, Fowler Westrup, Redstart Labs, IKP, and Vimson Group.
The ecosystem is now warming up to the idea and uses cases of drones.
The central government launched Drone Rules, 2021, on August 25 to drive growth in this sector. The rules for drone operations have been liberalised by reducing the number of forms that need to be filled to operate them (from 25 to five), and decreasing the types of fees charged from the operator (from 72 to four).
Speaking about future plans, Mughilan says, “The first and foremost focus now is hiring, especially for our leadership team and for business development. In the long term, Skylark is going to become a global company. We believe the opportunity for our software is not only in India; it is going to be used across the world.”