DroNepal is the first dedicated Drone as a Service and Drone as a Technology company of Nepal, pioneering the field of drone usage in Nepal as well as constantly pushing drone sensitization, education and advocacy. They have worked with diverse stakeholders, partners and collaborators and they are doing their our level best in pushing the drone industry in Nepal in multiple various application areas including surveying and mapping, project monitoring, research and analysis, planning and design, skills & knowledge transfer, and much more.
We interviewed Mr.Darpan Pudasaini, the CEO & Co-founder of Dronepal Pvt. Ltd. Go through the article below to know what he has to share about his venture.
1. What is DroNepal? Please introduce your venture.
Dronepal is the first dedicated Drone as a Service (DaaS) and Drone as a Technology (DaaT) company of Nepal, pioneering the field of drone usage in Nepal as well as constantly pushing drone sensitization, education and advocacy.
Having worked with and alongside diverse stakeholders, partners and collaborators, we are doing our level best in pushing the drone industry in Nepal in multiple various application areas including surveying and mapping, project monitoring, research and analysis, planning and design, skills & knowledge transfer, and much more.
2. What is the story behind its initiation?
From around 2011, I have been working with robotics, sensors, IoT, etc. and had co-created a team with Milan Karki, called Engineering ADDA Nepal which later turned to be our first startup. We have had the opportunity to work with lots of innovative technologies as engineers and innovators and such projects were:
- Water quality monitoring and alerting device that could be left inside a water tank and it would alert the users if any impurities were to be found in the water in real-time through mobile application.
- Prototype of a high energy spectrum based defence system to damage electronics within range – like an anti-drone system that could fry the circuit of a drone through high energy beams.
- Early warning system based on a Virtual fence to detect elephants and send alerts to community and army personnel.
Although we were working on these and many other innovative projects, one thing we learnt that it was a hard way as our market was not ready to use most of those things. What I mean is, technology could be very powerful working like magic and doing unimaginable things, but unless this technology is usable by a large population, it can’t make much of a difference. This led us to change our perspectives and instead focus on making use of technology that actually addressed real-life problems of people.
So we went on to establish DroNepal, with an aim of pioneering the use of this frontier technology, and while creating use cases for the drone technology in the context of Nepal, also help promote the use of the technology in solving our everyday problems. We started by providing services related to engineering surveying and mapping to address the huge data gap and lack of availability of enough quality data in Nepal.
3. What is the legal status of your company’s development? What is success?
DroNepal is a legally registered private limited company.
4. What are the applications of Drone, and what are the projects you are working on?
The potential applications of drones could be counted in dozens: from logistics to engineering, media to entertainment among many. The most popular applications of drones in the context of Nepal are:
- Photo/Videography – to capture the majestic beauty of Nepal, its landscapes and everything, and also to create shots and pictures otherwise too tough or infeasible.
- Surveying and Mapping – to capture earth data for measurements and engineering purpose, just like satellites are used, drones can be used in surveying and mapping – however with much more control and ease of operations than satellites.
- Medical Delivery – drones can be used for medical delivery, especially in a country like Nepal where road access to many rural parts is very difficult.
- Humanitarian response – drones can be used to locate people at times of disasters where it’s very risky / or sometimes impossible to access locations and search for people. Drones can also be used to create situational awareness of the kinds of damages occurred from any disasters. Also, for search and rescue missions or to drop lifesaving medicines in disaster-ongoing areas, drones can be deployed since they are much more agile, portable and cheaper than helicopters or planes.
- Security and Surveillance – drones can be used by the security agencies for providing surveillances over large areas in much lesser time
- Agricultural inspection and pesticides – countries like China have been using drones for many years now to inspect fields in large scale and spray nutrients and medicines using drones.
There are many other potential applications of drones like Traffic monitoring, Pollution Monitoring, Crime scene investigation, Cattle’s monitoring, Wildlife monitoring, etc.
We have primarily been using drones in projects that fall under these categories:
- Surveying and mapping – Dronepal is the first drone dedicated company of Nepal, providing its engineering surveying and mapping services through its Drones as a Service (DaaS) model to government agencies, municipalities, engineering consultancies, construction companies, hydropower’s, etc. We have used drones to provide data for hydropower projects, waste management, stadium masterplans, village relocation planning, infrastructure design, landslide monitoring projects, road designs, transmission line surveys, etc.
- Drone capacity building – We have constantly been providing training and workshops to build the capacity of youths and professionals in using drones in Nepal as well as abroad. E.g. provided training of trainers to Nepal police to help create drone trainers who could train police officials in using drones in multiple scenarios, training to organizations like WFP, Red Cross, civil aviation authority of Nepal, etc. in the use of drones for humanitarian response, training to professionals to use drones in surveying and mapping, etc. We currently have many course modules for different application areas of drones.
- Drone as a technology (drone customization and R&D) – we also provide drone R&D services and customizations of various drone systems for specific applications of drones. Our recent work under this type of service is Nepal’s first drone for medical delivery project in Pyuthan, where drones are being used to transport sputum samples for TB diagnosis and treatment since the last year.
5. What are the challenges you faced within your startup? What’s the state now?
We have faced different challenges with our operations. One of the major challenges is policy. Nepal has come a long way from having very restrictive policies regarding drones, which still has lots of room for improvement. Also, the policies of Nepal government are not startup-friendly and create lots of hurdles for startup to bloom – from taxation to legal obligations.
Not just the governmental policies, there is also awareness challenges. We had to spend almost 2 years of our time on educating and sensitizing people about drones, and that drones aren’t just war machines, but also can be used in numerous good applications. People are now much aware of the good applications of drones, and see it as a positive technological tool. So, awareness is indeed necessary.
While Nepal has come a long way in terms of the development of IT industry in Nepal, we still face a huge lacking of enough skilled manpower in newer emerging fields of technology, like drones. We are making huge efforts in capacity building and plan on increasing our efforts so as to facilitate the creation of enough skilled drone manpower that could advance the drone industry in Nepal.
In addition to this, there exist a problem importing drone and its equipment. It used to be very hard importing drones and its accessories like the batteries in Nepal. Now, it’s comparatively easier since the government is aware of drones and has recognized their significance, and made some policies. Still, we don’t have many drone importers in Nepal, and repair and maintenance of drones is also a huge pain.
6. What are the future plans?
We plan on being able to create a platform that can help create many drone businesses in Nepal based in many different application areas. We also plan on expanding our capacity building efforts to help enable more and more people in using drones. We also plan on filling all the spatial and topographical data gaps in Nepal so that quality data-driven development is possible, which in turn ensures sustainable development.