14-year-old Indian boy signs government contract to make anti-landmine drones

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A bespectacled boy dressed in a spiffy blue suit created a buzz at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit after he signed a INR 50 million-worth ($734,000 or £608,775) memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government, bagging the deal for production of a drone designed by him.

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 land mines on war fields.

Incidentally, Zala 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 working 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,” said the 14-year-old, who spent not less than INR 500,000 ($7,340 or £6,084) on the three prototypes of the drone.

While the teen’s parents shelled out approximately INR 200,000 for the first two prototypes, he was granted INR 300,000 from the state for the third prototype.

The drone is designed to send out waves that cover eight sq mt area while flying two feet above the surface; the waves detect land mines and communicate their location with a base station. “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,” explained Zala. “The drone also carries a bomb weighing 50 gram that can be used to destroy the landmine ,” he added, who was looking at manufacturing the drone and getting it tested by security agencies.

He has already registered for a patent and has 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 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.”

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


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