On May 11, when 15-year-old Harshwardhansinh Zala took the stage at TiEcon 2019, he looked no different than the other young entrepreneurs, until he addressed the attendees with “Namaste” and spoke about his dream to save mankind by detecting landmines.
Skinny, humble, and soft-spoken, Zala, the founder and CEO and CTO of Aerobotics7, who is based in Ahmadabad, India amazed both the parents and young teenagers with his discovery of a drone called EAGLE A7 that is capable of the detection and destruction of landmines in war fields.
During his talk, Zala shared how after several unsuccessful attempts he succeeded in building drones, which have captured the attention of the Indian Army. Zala has been acknowledged for his discovery at such a young age by the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.
“He was 9 years old,” said his father recalling how he used to open all the tiny nuts and bolts of the toys he brought him and rebuilt them.
“We saw this unique behavior and he wanted to do something so we did not stop him,” said Zala’s father Pradhyumamsinh, “and his passion kept growing and he got serious.” “I asked him to finish 10th grade and he studied just for a month and has scored 94 percent,” Pradhyumamsinh said and added, “I am an accountant, not an engineer, so I wasn’t able to help him nor had enough money to enroll him in a class to learn to build drones.”
When asked so how he learned about it, his father said by himself. “Yes, he is unique and a genius. [He] earns money by teaching BTech and MTech students.”
During the sidelines of the conference when indica asked Zala, is he was a genius, Zala nodded, smiling with head down, “No… I am not a genius.”
“It was a long journey,” he said referring to the year he started working in 2012 and sharing further he said, “Anyone can do anything.”
“With passion and determination, they can achieve whatever they want in the world.”
On how he got into drones, Zala responded, “Whenever I see electronics and technology I love to play with them and want to do [something] extraordinary out of ordinary things and now it has become my passion. I have executed many things.”
Drones, he said, “Can easily go to the field and can be controlled remotely. We can modify them and have developed our own drones and that is why I have chosen them. It’s very easy to build drones.”
But in reality, it took several years for Zala to build his first drone, Zala said, “No, it wasn’t easy. I did not get any training either when I started back in 2012, at that time no one knew about drones in India.”
“I literally failed many times, but learned so many things and learned so many possibilities and I finally build it,” Zala said and added, “I started learning [about drones] and used to import parts from Switzerland and Japan and then I started developing.”
When asked how he came up with the name Aerobotics 7,” he replied, “Seven is my birthday and Aerial Robotics…led to Aerobotics 7.”
The drone detects explosive devices, tracks their location, and detonates them with a wireless detonator. It’s battery operated and sends real-time data to a ground control station.
“I get satisfaction and saving lives is one of my mottos, that is why I started working,” Zala said. He has no mentors yet, and his inspiration comes from scientist and former President of India and a scientist Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam as well as Apple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, founder of Tesla.
When asked about the money required to build drones, he said it comes from tuition he offers to engineer students and some funding assistance comes in from different sectors, some are not disclosed, and he aspires to build a safer world for the humanity.
Zala, an inventor, programmer, tinkerer, speaker, and mentor enjoys watching television when free, said he has no friends and doesn’t play outside sports but does watch TV shows like Doraemon and Chhota Bheem. “I used to two years ago and even now I watch the cartoons, Tom and Jerry.”
When asked why he watches cartoons, he said, “When I get frustrated, I watch it and enjoy it.”