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Schoolkid inks Rs5-cr MoU for landmine-destroying drone

16 January 2017

A bespectacled boy dressed in a snazzy blue suit created a buzz at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit on Thursday when he signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) worth Rs5 crore with the state government for the production of a drone designed by him that can neutralise landmines.

Harshwardhan Zala, 14, signed a deal with the Department of Science and Technology, Government of Gujarat, to facilitate production of the drones that help detect and defuse mines on war fields.

The class 10 student had been working on his business plan and made three prototypes of the drone while most children his age are fretting over the upcoming board exams.

Zala said he started work on the prototype of the landmine-detecting drone in 2016 and created a business plan too. "The inspiration struck when I was watching television and learned that a large number of soldiers succumb to injuries sustained due to landmine blasts while defusing them manually," he said.

Zala spent at least Rs5 lakh on the three prototypes of the drone. While the teen's parents shelled out approximately Rs2 lakh for the first two prototypes, he was granted Rs3 lakh by the state for the third prototype.

Wired to locate and destroy, "The drone has been equipped with infrared, RGB sensor and thermal meter along with a 21-megapixel camera with a mechanical shutter that can take high resolution pictures as well," he explained.

The drone sends out waves that cover an eight sq m area while flying two feet above the surface; the waves detect land mines and communicate their location with to base station. "The drone also carries a bomb weighing 50 grammes that can be used to destroy the landmine ," explained Zala, who was looking at manufacturing the drone and getting it tested by security agencies.

He has already registered for a patent and set up his own company, 'Aerobotics'. The teenager added, "I started making drones on my own and set up an interface with a base station but realised I needed to do more. So I fixed payloads that detect landmines. I have several other plans that I want to execute once the patent for this drone is registered."

The student of Sarvoday Vidhyamandir in Bapunagar said he has been interested in science and innovation for several years and has always been encouraged by his parents.

His father Pradhyumansinh Zala is an accountant with a plastic company in Naroda while his mother Nishaba Zala is a homemaker. Zala's desire to get his product patented and produced was fuelled during a visit to the headquarters of Google, Inc in the US where he shared a project idea with several investors after observing the way they work.

"This was part of an all-expenses paid trip to the US that was part of a prize I won during an innovation event at LD College of Engineering. Now, I need to inform these investors about the MoU and I am sure they will be ready to invest in my company," said Zala, who wants to make his company bigger than Apple Inc or Google Inc.


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