Why did we invest? — Okulo Aerospace

Ideaspring Capital
4 min readJul 26, 2023

Okulo Aerospace is designing and manufacturing Solar-Electric hybrid Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to radically improve aerial data acquisition and provide aerial surveillance and monitoring solutions. The Company’s Solar-Electric Hybrid UAVs address the core incompetency of limited flight time (2 hours for fixed-wing, 45 minutes for multi-rotors) of existing electric drones by possessing a continuous flight time much beyond what the traditional drones can offer. The company has also achieved a remarkable feat by attaining a flight time of over 6 hours with its UAV, positioning it as the longest flight time in its class.

Indian Drone sector

The Indian drone industry is poised at a seminal point in its growth trajectory. With a 3x growth in investments over the last three years and companies such as IdeaForge listing in the public markets to a tremendous response, focus on the sector is at an all-time high. According to a civil aviation ministry estimate, India’s drone sector will achieve a turnover of Rs 12,000–15,000 crore by 2026, from about Rs 80 crore now. From its applications in agriculture, defence, law enforcement, surveillance, delivery services, worksite efficiency, private occasions and so on, the possibilities for the use of drones are endless.

India has taken significant steps to boost its domestic drone manufacturing industry and establish itself as a global drone hub by 2030. The Drone rules were announced in the year, 2021 covering areas such as the classification of drones, certification, permitted fly zones, etc. One of the key measures is the ban on the import of all drones and drone components that can be assembled to create drones. This move is aimed at promoting the local production of drones and encouraging the growth of indigenous drone technologies. To facilitate drone operations and make airspace more accessible, the country has expanded the airspace available for drone flights, covering almost 85 percent of India’s total air space, marking a six-fold increase from the previous allocation.

Moreover, to streamline drone registrations and approvals, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) launched the “Digital Sky platform,” offering a convenient single-window online platform for all drone-related processes. Additionally, the government has implemented a Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme specifically tailored for the drone sector, providing incentives and support to domestic manufacturers to enhance production capabilities and competitiveness. These strategic initiatives collectively demonstrate India’s commitment to nurture its drone industry thereby promoting innovative drone manufacturers such as Okulo Aeropsace.

Hybrid energy management system

Okulo’s UAV addresses the needs of global enterprise, industrial and defense customers who own assets spread over hundreds of kilometres and/or widespread areas, which require periodic monitoring that is either mandated by law, or for insurance purposes, or to ensure efficient operation of the equipment. Okulo is led by Dr. Parithi Govindaraju who is a PhD, M.S., Aerospace from Purdue University. He has 11+ years of experience in Aircraft Design and Optimization and has worked with & for clients such as United Technologies Corporation, U.S. Air Force, NASA, and FAA.

Okulo has developed the design of the drone from the ground up incorporating the hybrid energy management system. The hybrid energy management system (patent-filed) using traditional battery and solar energy ensures that their drones can fly for longer durations. In the future, Okulo is working on building High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS). HAPS are advanced unmanned flying systems, which operate in the stratosphere at an altitude of 70,000 feet continuously for 2–3 months, to maintain surveillance on the ground below. HAPS runs on solar power. Okulo currently using a solar-hybrid energy system for their UAVs will help them in getting the necessary expertise to build a solar-powered HAPS.

Defense Applications

India has largely prohibited the import of drones and import of drone components are exempted to encourage domestic drone manufacturing. With the recent push towards indigenization in the Indian defense industry, the sales cycle for defense procurement from the private industry is being reduced considerably. Also, the Ministry of Defence recently announced policy changes, where procurement and sales procedures that used to take around 2 years have been drastically reduced to just 5 months and fast-track procurement procedures have been implemented for companies developing products through the iDEX programme.

Okulo Aerospace is one of the recent winners of the Innovation for Defense Excellence (iDEX) challenge for a Long Endurance Aerial Surveillance Platform, organized by the Defense Innovation Organisation, Ministry of Defense, India

We at Ideaspring Capital are very excited to partner with Parithi and the Okulo Aerospace team, in building category-creating, long-endurance hybrid drones that can be used both in the enterprise and defense sectors.

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Ideaspring Capital

An early-stage VC fund investing in technology product companies in India.