Harshwardhan Zala, a fourteen-year-old Indian from the state of Gujarat, has been granted a 730,000 US Dollar contract with the Gujarati government to produce mine-disabling drones for use in war zones.
Zala says, in regards to the purpose of the drone: “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.”
In response, he designed and built a drone to dispose of landmines more safely. Speaking to The Times of India, Zala said, “The drone has been equipped with infrared, RGB sensor (sic) and a thermal meter along with a 21-megapixel camera with a mechanical shutter that can take high-resolution pictures as well.” The drone is armed with a 50-gram explosive, used to destroy the mine safely.
His first two prototype drones were funded by his parents, but winning an innovation prize at the L.D. College of Engineering in Gujarat allowed him a trip to Google’s headquarters in the United States, where he shared his idea with investors there. Shortly afterwards, at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in India, the government offered him an MoU to fund his next prototype and produce further drones.
Zala has already registered his drone for a patent and is setting up his own company, Aerobotics, with the intent of producing more UAS in the future.
“I started making drones on my own and set up an interface with a base station but realised I need 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.”