Young Engineers Pursue Flights of Passion Through UAVs

The Aerospace Systems Engineers behind startup Nimbus UAV share how they became fierce competitors in the drone industry and their plans to support innovation at SIT

Most startups usually follow a structured path – Start up, get funding, produce a product, get more funding, then sell the company for a profit. But for the guys at Nimbus UAV, the plan is to keep what they describe as a “passion job” running and self-funded for as long as they can. The brainchild of Chandruth Jayasiriwardena, Damian Cheng, Elvin Ong and Tai Yi Long, Nimbus UAV specialises in drone or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) customisation for industrial applications, which could include anything from scanning for data underground to delivering food and medicine to needy countries. The four were later joined by Fabian Chew and Samuel Gan. All of them had graduated from the Aerospace Systems joint-degree programme by SIT and the University of Glasgow (UofG), in 2018 and 2019.


Meeting as coursemates, they bonded over their mutual hobbies and passion for aviation and eventually decided to form a startup together. They were especially inspired by their Final Year Projects (FYP), in which they proposed and funded project ideas from their own savings. “Actually, crafting machines with parts is not necessary to get good results. But to us results were secondary,” Chandruth explains. “We wanted to do something worthwhile and learn through the process. Even though it cost us a bomb, to us it was worth it.” Chandruth’s FYP project eventually became one of Nimbus UAV’s very first platforms, the Nimbus Sprayer. This agricultural sprayer can be used as a farming aid, efficiently crop-dusting necessary vitamins, pesticides, and antibodies in a short amount of time at low cost and even be used for Grandular Spreading and Speed Spraying.

Their FYP experience triggered the start of a small business, when they began supplying craft parts to their juniors, even going as far as providing parts for free. “We were in their shoes back then, so we know that money wasted on expensive parts could be put to much better use,” said Damien. “For students to be able to do something really innovative, funding and hands-on experience is important.” It was through supporting their fellow SITizens that the team managed to find the capital for their future company. Nimbus UAV was officially established in 2018.


Still, as young engineers in their 20s and fresh out of university, they have faced their fair share of challenges, and not just financially. As Damien puts it, “In the early stages, a lot of people looked down on us, especially when they see our young faces. We were told that we’re too young to start up, or that we needed someone with an older face at the front. To us, some things are just a simple fix, but clients have been told by other companies that it couldn’t be done. As a startup, it took quite some effort to convince people to trust us.”


The company has since taken on various key projects, including filming aerial footage for MediaCorp drama C.L.I.F 5 and helping Neo Aeronautics to build the Crimson S8 flying. Chandruth shares that most recently, the team won a large UAV tender in Singapore after competing with other established drone companies, giving them the chance to work with one of the ministries. “I think one of the things that we’re proud of is that although we are a small company, we can actually compete and win. We can design and manufacture stuff on our own, and some companies are actually buying parts from us as well,” says Damian.


What’s next for Nimbus UAV? The team’s ultimate aspiration is to become the leading provider for UAV industrial platforms worldwide. In future, they also hope to fund a scholarship at SIT in support of fellow SITizens. “When we were in university, we realised there are a lot of like-minded individuals around who may lack the capabilities or the funding to do what they want to do,” says Chandruth. “A lot of students have creative ideas that cannot be put into motion without some form of funding. So we’re setting aside an amount of money for a day when we have enough to support students to either develop a product together or maybe even learn some skillsets.”