Infosys-backed Navi Mumbai-based drone startup ideaForge Technology has recently received an order from India's largest energy conglomerate, NTPC Limited to supply two highly sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) along with high-end programmatic sensors, Thermal Imaging Sensor and LiDAR Sensor.

The devices made by the drone startup for NTPC will be deployed for action at the PSU's research and development facility, NTPC Energy Technology Research Alliance (NETRA). There they will be put to use to support inspection and monitoring operations.

The 42-year-old NTPC had launched a public tender for this very purpose in October last year. According to ideaForge Technology, which is the brainchild of three IITians, Ankit Mehta, Rahul Singh, Ashish Bhat, the startup has written the NTPC success story after following a competitive international bidding route and giving everyone a tough competition.

According to information available, NETRA would be carrying out research and development operations in order to discover the various ways in which the UAVs can be put to use in the power sector and several related challenges to build the knowledge base and further the development of user-friendly applications with data analytics.

One of the most interesting applications proposed being proposed by NETRA for the use of UAVs includes their use in degradation study of solar photovoltaic plants, LiDAR-based terrain mapping and photo grammetric volumetric analysis of coal stock piles in addition to visual inspection and monitoring activities at NTPC sites.

The 10-year-old company counts the NTPC deal as one of the biggest developments made in the recent times in the commercial applications of UAVs in sectors such as agriculture or energy, the ones which are still marred by regulatory hurdles.

According to a statement given by ideaForge Technology CEO Ankit Mehta to Times of India, "These are very interesting times for the industry and the market is heating up in terms of opportunities in exploring commercial applications for UAVs. PSUs are taking the lead in this direction."

Mehta also revealed that ideaForge is currently in the midst of negotiations with several other public sector units for lucrative offers. The startup, which has made a name for itself by building advanced UAVs for defence sector applications, seems to be ready to scale to new heights this year.

In the past, the startups's UAVs have been used by the Indian Army during the disastrous 2013 Uttarakhand floods, to manage the huge crowds that throng Kumbh mela, to collect positions of militants during defence operations and for disaster management during the Nepal earthquake.

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