For the first time in India, a 1,000-drone display marked the grand finale of the Beating Retreat on Saturday, 29 January, signaling the end of Republic Day celebrations for the year.
As the skies lit up with Made in India drones, it drew widespread appreciation, and so did BotLab Dynamics – the IIT Delhi incubated startup behind the spectacle.
The fleets positioned themselves to depict the 75th year of India’s Independence, the ‘Make-in-India’ lion, Mahatma Gandhi’s contributions, a rotating globe, a map of India and finally the Tricolour.
IIT Alumni at The Helm
The startup is helmed by Tanmay Bunkar, Anuj Barnwal, and Dr Sarita Ahlawat. Bunkar and Barnwal are both 2014 batch graduates of IIT Delhi, while Ahlawat holds a PhD in BioInformatics from the University of Illinois.
“Anuj and I were batchmates and roommates at IIT Delhi while studying Engineering Physics... In 2016, I asked Anuj if he was happy with his job, or would like to join me. That is how we came together to start this company." BotLab Dynamics co-founder Tanmay Bunkar told The Print.
"In July 2016, we got the company incubated at IIT Delhi. Later, Dr Sarita joined us. The three of us have just one thing in common – we wanted to make something in India."Tanmay Bunkar to The Print
Talking about the Republic Day opportunity, Bunkar told the publication, “It was our luck that the DST secretary was friends with the secretary at the Ministry of Defence, who further motivated us to demonstrate to the world that India is capable of doing something like this."
According to the BotLab Dynamics website, the company focuses on drone use, especially in the entertainment and defence industry. "We are building drone technology solutions by designing both hardware and software in-house,” it says.
In 2017, BotLab was given an initial seed fund of Rs 50 lakh under the NIDHI-Seed Support System, an initiative of the Centre’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) to extend financial support to technology-driven startups in their initial phase. This was followed by another Rs 1 crore from DST's research and development wing.
They were later given Rs 2.5 crore for scale-up and commercialisation by Technology Development Board, according to Union minister of state for science and technology Dr Jitendra Singh.
In 2018, it was selected by the Army Design Bureau (ADB) to do a demo of the heavy lift drone in Tawang Arunachal Pradesh. It was subsequently roped in for other demonstrations by the Army and the Air Force.
Botlab Dynamics received the Republic Day parade offer in June 2021, after it had reportedly demonstrated 49 drones to the DST secretary and IIT Delhi director.
The company could demo with 50-100 drones, but when the Defence Ministry came up with the proposal to put on a 1000-drone display, they took up the challenge, Subir Kumar Saha, a professor at IIT Delhi told the Times of India.
(With inputs from Times of India and The Print)