Building software for drones on TCS radar

India's top IT services provider Tata Consultancy Services is developing software capability for unmanned vehicles that can potentially be used to fix problems in windmills or solar farms in mostly inaccessible terrain.

India’s largest technology firm has filed for a patent in India for the software, which will help UVs in providing services to customers using bots. ET has reviewed a copy of the patent filing.

The bots could be an aerial vehicle (drone) or a ground-based robotic vehicle capable of working in hazardous conditions. They could be used to either update software on a secure network or fix a flaw robotically, and will be operated remotely, experts said.

TCS could deploy the software in drones for customers in its main markets.

The unmanned vehicle will be used to track the bots until they return after completing the assigned tasks, with help from a software and data processing module aboard the vehicle, according to the filing.

TCS has, so far, applied for 4,596 patents and been granted 946, according to its financial year 2019 annual report. It spent ?1,660 crore on R&D, a little more than 1% of total turnover.

TCS declined to comment citing the silent period ahead of its quarterly results on October 10.

The company has set up a drone research lab in Cincinnati, US, which applies advanced computer vision, machine learning and deep learning algorithms to process the images captured by drones. Indian IT services firms are building capability to deliver services using drones due to growing demand from customers globally in infrastructure, agriculture and defence.

The global drone services market is expected to reach $92.52 billion by 2026, growing at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate of 53.8%, according to a report by, a market research firm.

Two years ago, TCS’ smaller rival Cognizant Technology Solutions invested in a drone startup, Measure, which offers services such as as cell tower inspections, construction development, precision agriculture and disaster response.

“It has licensed pilots to operate drones that can reach inaccessible areas and send back images — like inspecting a dam, for agri-science, defence applications and so on,” Cognizant cofounder Lakshmi Narayanan told ET.

The investments in unmanned aerial vehicles, which started in the last 2-3 years, will scale up soon, he said.

US-based online retailer Amazon has demonstrated the use of drones to deliver packages, but TCS will face challenges in landing a bot on a moving unmanned vehicle, said Pratyush Kumar, a professor of computer science and engineering at IIT-Madras.