State of the drone market report: India

Today, our favourite researchers at Drone Industry Insights are in India, the land that named a drone after one of the most famous faces in world cricket.

Being China’s neighbour, one can understand how the commercial drone space in the country might have suffered in the face of the near perfect products offered by DJI and other established drone makers across parts of the northern border.

But India is a competitive country, and in 2022, the government announced a blanket ban on all commercial drone imports in order to give its local drone manufacturing start-ups a shot at scaling up their innovations.

February marked two years to the day the ban was announced, and there has never been a better time time to check on the results.

Read on.

What potential do drones have in the most populated country in the world?

India recently surpassed China as the nation with the most people (at the time the news broke in April last year, India had a population of 1,429 billion while China had 1.426 billion), and its government has also been showing plenty of interest in the development and use of drone technology.

So, it is time to dive into the Indian Drone Market, and considering the size of the population, it should be no surprise to hear that a lot is happening.

From forest conservation efforts to addressing public health concerns like dengue outbreaks in cities such as Delhi, drones are improving the health of both people and plants. The recent partnership by Skydio to manufacture drones in India also shows that a top drone manufacturer sees value in the market.

And the entry of established players like IdeaForge and soon-to-be-listed Garuda Aerospace into the stock markets reflects a growing interest in leveraging drone technology within the country’s regulatory framework. With interest from both the inside and outside of the country, let’s analyse the potential of the Indian drone market.

There is a drone in India named after MS Dhoni

Opportunity for Drones in India

India’s agricultural sector, contributing 15.4 percent to the GDP while engaging 47 percent of the labour force, presents a prime opportunity for drone utilisation.

As in-depth research shows, drones can significantly improve efficiency and profitability in agriculture by providing real-time data for precision farming practices. Considering the high amount of labour force that goes into agriculture as well as the percentage of GDP that relies on agriculture, India is among the top locations where agricultural drones can have an immediate and vast impact, especially as urbanisation rates climb and there are less people willing and avail]able to work in the countryside.

As the BBC suggests, drones could indeed be the future of Indian farming, especially considering its early investment into the Kisan Drone.

India is also subject to natural disasters such as droughts, flash floods, widespread and destructive flooding from monsoonal rains, and earthquakes. Given the frequency of these natural hazards, drones can have a high impact through inspections of buildings at risk, surveying lands before and after a natural disaster, or search and rescue in the event of floods and earthquakes.

As if these were not enough to highlight the potential for the Indian drone market, the highly concentrated population in a sizeable amount of land (3.3 million km²) also means a need for construction and infrastructure projects, which opens the door for mapping and surveying opportunities.

As with other densely populated countries, the use of drones to avoid traffic means that drone delivery will also have vast potential once necessary regulations take effect to protect the people below.

Additionally, regions that lack infrastructure (i.e. the opposite of traffic jams) or are cut off by mountains or rivers (especially after a natural disaster) will also benefit greatly from deliveries by drone.

Indian Drone Market Composition

It is perhaps not surprising that the country that competed for the most-populated nation also has a very competitive drone landscape.

Compared to previous countries in the country market series, India has a very high concentration of medium-sized drone companies. The highest percentage of companies (33 percent) fall in the 51-200-employees range rather than the 1-10-employees range (27 percent) or the 11-50-employees range (27 percent). 

So, while it is true that most companies (54 percent) still have 50 employees or less, there is nevertheless a very high proportion of larger companies.

Although some may argue that a country with a very large population would naturally have more employees per company, this certainly does not have to be the case (e.g. the larger population could simply mean more start-ups or freelancers rather than bigger companies). 

And what do Indian drone companies do?

Based on the latest drone industry survey, there is a great amount of diversity in the Indian drone market. The highest percentage of drone companies in India focus on the same business activities as in other parts of the world: drone services and education.

Roughly 21 percent of companies are DSPs (Drone Service Providers), while an equal 21 percent carry out Drone Training & Education services.

These are closely followed by Software Manufacturers (eighteen percent), which falls in line with common perceptions about India being a strong market for software programmers.

Finally, in a close but certain fourth place are Hardware Manufacturers (twelve percent)

The Kisan drone has been popular for agriculture applications

Priorities and Challenges for Drone Companies in India

In navigating the competitive landscape, drone companies in India prioritise Marketing & Sales, which is similar to the rest of the world and also a likely outcome of strong competition within the Indian drone market.

The second priority, Hardware Development, leads to an interesting market dynamic considering the two points above about the current market composition (twelve percent).

Will the amount of drone hardware-focused companies in India increase relative to software developers or service providers? This will be something worth keeping an eye on. 

As for the challenges that drone companies in India face, the number one concern reported by companies is public acceptance. Naturally, the country’s incredibly large population means that there will often be people close to wherever drones are operating.

Given the importance of keeping safety and common misconceptions about drones, it should not be such a surprise that this is the number one challenge that companies face.

Furthermore, for the second time in this country series (after South Korea), “Competition” appears within the top three challenges.

Although this fits the overall theme of the consequences of having a large population and a varied drone market, the situation is quite different than the last time. Unlike the case of Korea, where high competition correlated with very low optimism, drone companies in India seem to be astoundingly optimistic, which brings us to the conclusion of this analysis.

Indian Drones: Huge Optimism & Eyes on DSPs

In 2023, India’s drone market reported an optimism level of 7.8, which is higher than the optimism of the previous year (7.0) and much greater than the global average of 6.6.

It is imperative to note that the Indian drone market is by far the most optimistic that has been covered in this country market series. In other words, despite perceived competition and expressing concern about public perception, drone companies in India nevertheless consider a very strong potential for their domestic market. 

So, what will determine the growth of the market and its speed?

By and large, the Indian drone market considers rule-making authorities the leading market driver. And on average companies perceived substantially positive changes in regulation (7.1), which is perhaps one of the reasons for the high optimism in the market.

Of course, one of the factors that must be included in this regard is India’s ban on importing drones as well as its restrictions on foreign operators.

These, in addition to a simpler process for obtaining permissions, a reduction of no-fly zones, and rule relaxations specifically for domestically manufactured drones are all regulatory initiatives designed to stimulate the Indian drone industry.

Although this may not be the best news for foreign companies and operators, the ban may nevertheless help the most populated country in the world deliver on its potential and turn the Indian drone market into another Asian powerhouse.


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