Most of the kids at the age of 10 or more can name at least 20 movie actors with ease, but they can hardly name 3 Indian scientists if asked. The scenario is indeed piteous for the country, however, the question being raised is- why our country is very poor in the area of science? Well, there might be a variety of reasons. A major reason is overlooking the contributions of our scientists and researchers.
There have been several scientists across the world who made a real case for themselves as the best brains in the field of science. However, Indian scientists never cease to amaze us with interesting discoveries as they think beyond human imagination. This is the reason why they are praised for being smart in their approach. Sadly, their hard work and achievements go unnoticed.
The story of Prathap NM is one that needs to be told to inspire the youths of the nation. From sleeping at bus stands, walking miles to give tuitions and to skipping meals, the village boy from Karnataka gave absolutely everything to achieve his dream
Hailing from Mandya, Karnataka, he makes drones using e-waste to help people in need. He is setting a great example for the young generation to follow suit.
He started repairing with drones when he was only 14 years old, and by the age of 16, he had built his first drone that could fly and capture pictures. Prathap is a BSc grad from JSS College of Arts and Commerce in Mysore. He developed a penchant for building drones and has by built over 600 drones. He is also referred to as the ‘Drone Scientist’.
In addition, he has also finished six sensational projects including Telegraphy in Border Security, Drones for traffic management, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs for rescue operations and auto-piloted drones. The best part is that he has also worked on cryptography in drone networking in order to save them from getting hacked and taken out of control.
Life took a U-turn for Prathap in December 2017 after his big win at the International Robotic Exhibition held in Japan. Then 18-years-old, he made a low-cost drone from electronic waste with an aim to provide relief in disaster-affected areas by capturing images and transporting relief materials.
When Karnataka was suffering from massive flash floods, it was Prathap NM’s drones that helped in disaster management by offering medicine and food to people in need.
This Indian brain Prathap clearly knows how to utilise e-waste to better effect. He primarily focusses on minimising the generation of e-waste on the planet. What he does is that he tries to utilise components from broken drones like motors, batteries, capacitors and other important electronics where he looks for those vital parts that can be reused.
It is worth mentioning here that Prathap has been invited to over 87 nations to show his creations to the entire world. He has also been awarded the Albert Einstein Innovation Gold Medal International Drone Expo 2018 which was held in Hanover in Germany.
He also received a gold and silver medal and $10,000 in the International Robotics Exhibition that took place in Tokyo in 2017. Impressed by his impeccable knowledge, he was asked to give lectures at IIT Bombay, and IISc to explain the application of drone technology.
Currently, he is working on a project with India’s DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) for drone application in critical national projects.
Prathap grew up in an agrarian family and was struggling to make ends meet. To fulfil his father’s desire of making farming his profession, he had started working in the fields since a young age. Seeing the eagles fly in the vast sky motivated the boy to work. One day, he saw a drone for the first time on TV.
“That drone reminded me of eagles. I wanted to make one for myself. Back then I was in class ten and did not have access to a smartphone or internet. So, without my parent’s knowledge, I started working in a cyber cafe as a sweeper and in return, the owner would allow me to browse the internet for about 45 minutes. That was the starting point of my freedom,” shares Prathap.
He slowly learnt the basics of making a drone but arranging its parts was one more challenge that awaited him.
“I did not have that kind of money to purchase parts like wires, motor and motherboard. So, I turned towards electronic waste. I would visit the electronic appliances store and buy the waste parts at dearth cheap,” Prathap added in a statement.
When he gathered all the expertise and materials, he shifted to Mysuru to do his BSc from JSS College of Arts, Science and Commerce.
Prathap’s father gave him a sum of Rs 8,000, which he used to pay his college fees. For the next few months, he walked miles to provide coaching classes so that he could use that money to pay for his accommodation and food while working on developing the drone.
Things turned nasty at one point when he was even thrown out of his rented house for not paying bills as he ran out of his salary. So he had to sleep on the bus stand.
“I preferred sleeping on the bus stand than compromising on my dream.”
“I did not understand aerodynamics or engineering. No one was even there to guide me. Once I exhausted all my options, I used common sense. I made a couple of basic changes like putting the flight controller in front, maintaining the centre of gravity and striking a balance between all the drone parts,” he explains to The Better India.
“As a student, Prathap was brilliant and attentive. He would always invest his spare time in research work and as his teacher, I guided him. He would always be open for suggestions and improvisations. The zeal to learn new things helped him reach such great heights,” says Navyashree B, HOD and Assistant Professor at JSS College.
In addition to that, Prathap’s college faculty helped him. Talking to TBI, Principal of JSS college, M. Mahadevappa says, “Our college faculty got together and contributed money for flight tickets and project to be showcased at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo. in 2017.”
Let’s learn how Japan turned Prathap’s destiny:
Prathap landed at the Tokyo International Airport with his drones in December 2017. His mission was to reach the Tokyo Big Sight Inc to mark his presence at the International Robotic Exhibition.
“I am not sure if it was the freezing temperatures or massive airport but I froze for a few minutes,” Prathap recalls his first international trip.
“I want to go to the Robot competition. How?” he asked.
Upon reaching the place, he saw students from 120 countries who were accompanied by their professors.
Only 20 teams were selected and Prathap was one among the candidates from India who did the nation proud on the big stage.
“All I heard were two words, my name and gold medal. Life came to standstill and I went blank. I still cannot remember the walk till the stage,” he recalls.