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DeepTech Startup AVGARDE Wins the DRDO Dare to Dream 4.0 Contest for National Level Innovations in Counter Drone Technologies

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AVGARDE

Deeptech startup AVGARDE was declared the winner of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Dare to Dream 4.0 Contest for national level startup innovations in ‘countermeasures for drone and swarm of drones’. Incubated at IISc Bangalore and IIT Guwahati, AVGARDE is building a cutting-edge AI-driven object sensing platform for low-altitude airspace management. Founded in Assam, AVGARDE has offices in Bangalore and Guwahati, with Pan-India operations and associates supporting customers across the country.

The prestigious DRDO Dare to Dream competition provides a unique opportunity for startups and innovators to address key challenges in emerging technologies that can help boost India’s aerospace and defence capabilities, while contributing towards the country’s Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) ecosystem to achieve technological self-reliance.  

Manash Bhuyan, Managing Director & Co-Founder of AVGARDE said: “We are honoured and proud to be a winner at DRDO’s coveted innovation contest, Dare to Dream 4.0. This award is a testimony of our globally competitive technology developed by our amazingly talented team. With this recognition, the innovation journey of AVGARDE is further validated as we continue to develop our best-in-class AI-driven airspace management platform for various applications, including drone countermeasures. With the proliferation of drones, the low-altitude airspace is confronted with many potential risks and threats for civilian and military dual-use cases. As we address these new-age challenges, AVGARDE is motivated to develop pioneering indigenous technology and contribute effectively towards a self-reliant India.”

Currently, the AVGARDE DeepSense platform offers three product lines – (1) DroneSafe – an AI-enabled Counter Unmanned Aerial System (C-UAS) to detect, classify, mitigate and report aerial risks/threats from drones, UAVs and other aerial objects; (2) DIWAR – an all-band GPS Jammer for tackling drones and inhibiting its airborne motions; and (3) BirdsEye – an intelligent Bird Detection and Monitoring Radar (BDMR) for dual-use aviation safety and preventing Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH). 

Nilutpal Choudhury, CEO & Co-Founder of AVGARDE said: “This award is a phenomenal milestone for AVGARDE and I have immense admiration and gratitude for our diverse and great team. DRDO’s Dare to Dream is a great platform to validate innovations as it’s a multi-stage screening process with various selection criteria considering aspects of novelty, applicability, implementability, technical merit and maturity. Therefore, it is a great honour to be recognized by DRDO, our country’s esteemed R&D organization for aerospace and defence. Our team is further encouraged to innovate continuously to develop advanced home-grown technologies to fulfill our commitment towards Atmanirbhar Bharat.”   

About Avgarde Systems

Avgarde Systems Private Limited (“AVGARDE”) is a radio frequency, wireless technology and artificial intelligence focused deeptech startup building an AI-driven object sensing platform for low-altitude airspace management. With the proliferation of drones, AVGARDE is reimagining wireless technologies to innovate the next generation products for the drone airspace and allied operations, with applications across  airports airspace safety, critical infrastructure protection, drone fleet operations, unmanned traffic management, aerospace and defence.

Founded in India as a private limited company, AVGARDE has offices in Bangalore, the world’s fastest growing tech hub, and Guwahati, the gateway to the Northeast – India’s land bridge to Southeast Asia. AVGARDE has incubation and research partnerships with some of India’s top institutions, including Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati.

About DRDO – Dare to Dream Innovation Contest

Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) is a premier agency under the Indian Ministry of Defence, which is responsible for the military’s research and development. DRDO technologies have been adopted by the Indian Army, the Indian Navy, the Indian Air Force and others. DRDO also promotes R&D though it’s Technology Development Fund (TDF), which is focused on supporting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and the development of indigenous technologies. To promote startups and innovators, the DRDO Dare to Dream Innovation Contest was launched in honour of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, a renowned scientist and former President of India.

The DRDO Dare to Dream Innovation Contest intends to scout and promote individuals and startups for innovations in Defence & Aerospace. With such initiatives, the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) provides a unique opportunity for startups and innovators to solve some key challenges in emerging technologies that can help boost India’s defence & aerospace capabilities.

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Pros and Cons of EV Company Cars in 2024

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Businesses and individuals are switching to electric vehicles in ever-increasing numbers. Latest figures show there were more than 1 million fully electric cars registered in the UK in February 2024 on top of a further 56,000 electric vans and 620,000 plug-in hybrids.  

Now, with a government ban on the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars due to come into force in 2035, more and more businesses and employees will be trading in their polluting fossil-fuel company vehicles for a zero-emissions electric model. 

From salary sacrifice schemes to tax benefits, business car insurance specialists, Keith Michaels has weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of driving an electric company vehicle in 2024 and explained what this means for employers and benefit in kind (BiK). 

The Pros of EV Company Cars 

Owning a company car was once a tax-efficient benefit designed to stimulate the UK car market. That benefit soon became diluted as governments clamped down on benefit-in-kind rules, making company cars less desirable for businesses and employees alike. 

The rise in electric cars changed attitudes again thanks to attractive benefit rates for employees and tax deductions for employers aimed at encouraging uptake in EVs, reducing carbon emissions, and helping the government meet its Net Zero target. 

With electric vehicle technology constantly improving, it’s no surprise that businesses are now choosing EVs over standard motor options. Not only is this good news for the environment but there’s less maintenance and lower running costs with electric vehicles compared to those powered by combustion engines. 

The advantages of EV company cars for both businesses and employees in 2024 include: 

Emission-based tax benefits  

Businesses may offer employee salary sacrifice schemes in return for an electric company car with zero emissions as it delivers substantial savings through tax benefits. Instead of calculating emissions, tax rates are fixed for all electric company cars, so businesses won’t pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions on the salary given up, but 1A National Insurance on the lower amount of benefit in kind instead. 

Unlike other so-called benefits in kind such as mobile phones or health insurance, income tax charges for electric cars aren’t based on foregone wages, but rather a percentage of the car’s list price as defined by HMRC. For fully electric vehicles, the rate is 2% until 2024/25 rising by a further 1% each year until 2027/28 when it will freeze at 5% which remains substantially less than the taxable value of a petrol or diesel car.  

VAT savings 

Another tax benefit of electric company cars is that employers can recover any VAT incurred for employees who charge vehicles at work or at public charge points. At present, HMRC states that this doesn’t apply to employees who charge their company EV at home, and they are not entitled to recoup any VAT for business use. 

Purchase price discounts 

Employees who enter an EV salary sacrifice scheme in the workplace can take advantage of potential discounts on the purchase price compared to buying the car outright. Most dealers and manufacturers are crying out for guaranteed buyers for their electric fleets and are likely to entice new customers with significant cost savings and attractive packages. 

Zero congestion charges 

Any employee driving an electric company car will be exempt from paying congestion charges in the UK where they apply. Similarly, company EV drivers don’t have to pay Clean Air Zone charges which are currently in force in Birmingham, Bristol, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow and will soon roll out across other towns and cities. Company EVs are also exempt from London’s ULEZ charges which currently stand at £12.50 per day for vehicles that don’t meet the strict emissions criteria.  

The Cons of EV Company Cars 

Electric company cars provide many benefits for businesses and employees, but there are also disadvantages to consider. From a reduction in take-home salary to limited vehicle options, the drawbacks to driving a company EV include the following: 

Lower take-home salary and pension contributions 

While salary sacrifice schemes can be financially beneficial for employees, they also mean a reduction in take-home salary. This is because the cost of the EV is deducted before National Insurance contributions and taxes apply, potentially leaving workers with less money and a smaller budget at the end of each month. Similarly, salary sacrifice schemes can also negatively impact workplace pensions as a reduction in gross salary means lower pension contributions. This could have long-term implications for an employee’s retirement pot and affect their future financial security. 

Mortgage and loan challenges 

Any reduction in take-home salary resulting from a salary sacrifice scheme could harm an employee’s ability to secure a mortgage and limit their borrowing capacity for loans. Mortgage providers generally base their rules around lending on an employee’s income and monthly expenses. Therefore, a lower take-home salary could be detrimental for employees looking to secure a mortgage or loan or affect the terms of interest they are offered. 

Limited electric car selection 

Those who enter an electric company car salary sacrifice scheme are unlikely to have an unlimited choice of vehicles. Most employers will have a contract or arrangement with specific manufacturers, giving employees a smaller selection of makes and models of EVs to choose from. Not only that, but some employees may also find they are responsible for the upkeep of their company electric car under the terms and conditions of their salary sacrifice scheme. As a result, the employee could be liable for all servicing, repairs, insurance fees, and ongoing costs which could reduce the financial and tax benefits of a salary sacrifice scheme. 

Penalties for early scheme exit 

Many EV salary sacrifice schemes offer limited flexibility when employees leave the scheme early or do not meet the pre-agreed terms of the agreement. There are many reasons why this may happen such as workplace changes or new business ownership, but employees are often charged fees or penalties for exiting a scheme early. Also, when an employee changes jobs they may want to transfer their salary sacrifice scheme to their new employer. However, this solely depends on the agreement in place between the employer and the scheme provider and may not always be possible. 

Overall, electric company car sacrifice schemes can deliver many benefits for both businesses and employees including tax savings and discounts on purchase prices, lower running and maintenance costs, and zero emission charges. However, EV salary sacrifice schemes can also cause a reduction in take-home salary, penalties for early exits, and limited vehicle choice. Therefore, it is essential to weigh up the pros and cons of any electric company car salary sacrifice scheme to fully understand the obligations and limitations involved with switching from fossil-fuel vehicles to EVs. 

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AFFF Exposure Leads to Chronic Ailments: How to Alleviate Health Risks?

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AFFF exposure

The job of a firefighter is not just stressful but also dangerous. The risks associated with their health and lives are real. This danger is not over once a firefighter walks out of a site that had previously caught fire. The flames might have been extinguished for good, but the firefighter foam, or AFFF, results in major harm.

Firefighters get exposed to AFFF daily as a part of their occupation and training. This toxic foam leads to several life-threatening ailments that hurt a person’s quality of life and even decrease their lifespan. 

In December 2023, dotnews.com reported that most of the Legislature in Worcester had signed a letter to Andrea Campbell, an attorney general. The letter was a plea urging the state to join the firefighters detected with cancer in the lawsuits they have filed against manufacturers of firefighting gear. It’s because these gears have harmful ‘PFAS’ (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) or ‘forever chemicals’ that are detrimental to health.

This news emphasizes that AFFF exposure is fatal for firefighters, and they need to be secured from it. In this article, we will discuss the dangers of AFFF to human health and how firefighters can mitigate the health risks.

Understanding AFFF and its Health Hazards

AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) is a firefighter foam that has fluorine and is used in training Class B materials like jet fuel, oil, and gasoline, for the shore or shipboard facility fire suppression systems. The foam develops a barrier that diminishes the fire by taking off the oxygen supply and allowing the fuel to cool down. 

TorHoerman Law states that AFFF is very effective against some critical fires. 

However, many states are planning to ban the use of AFFF because of its toxic chemicals, which affect both humans and the environment. The U.S. military, in October 2024, intends to stop all the uses of AFFF. The Federal Aviation Administration will follow this initiative soon after. 

The latest studies highlight that PFAS persists in nature. It can also enter the human body through water, air, and soil contamination. Leading organizations such as the IARC (International Agency for Research and Cancer) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) consider PFAS to be carcinogenic. Therefore, other than restricted use, there is also a need for secure practices for handling and disposal. 

The researchers with the EPA and Department of Defense state that AFFF exposure can result in: 

  • Asthma
  • Fertility problems
  • Immune system changes
  • Issues in fetal and child development
  • Problems related to cholesterol
  • Liver damage
  • Higher chances of kidney, testicular, and various other cancers
  • Thyroid disease
  • Preeclampsia induced by pregnancy
  • Ulcerative colitis
     

Firefighters who have witnessed such health hazards should file a firefighter foam lawsuit to seek legal compensation. The money that they get can be used to cover all the economic and non-economic damages that they have endured because of this toxic foam exposure.

Safe Handling Is Crucial for Alleviating Health Risks

Once you are affected by AFFF exposure, you have the choice of making a legal claim under the guidance of a lawyer. However, it is also necessary for firefighters and other safety professionals to practice security measures to reduce the health hazards linked to this foam as much as possible.

The following guidelines are useful:

Using PPE (personal protective equipment)

The workers who have to deal with AFFF should wear the correct PPE, which comprises face shields, goggles, and gloves, to avert splash hazards. They also need P2 respirators to ensure that any harmful particles are filtered out. Also, if the safety gear has PFAS, companies must look for safer alternatives.

Implementing Correct Awareness and Training

Executing in-depth, regular training sessions that focus on the risks of AFFF and secure ways to manage the same is necessary. It will help firefighters learn about emergency response measures that will help to bring down the harm caused by the foam. Training should also focus on spill response, correct use of PPE, and correct disposal methods to make sure the staff is safe.

Following Correct Disposal Methods

It is necessary to dispose of AFFF correctly, or else it can cause much harm to nature. Companies should adhere to environmental regulations to avert any hazards. It is necessary to get in touch with a toxic waste disposal service provider because they have the necessary know-how and tools to dispose of AFFF without causing additional harm.

Storing AFFF the Right Away

It is also necessary to store AFFF correctly. The Department of Ecology has shared a few regulations that can help. 

1. Refrain from giving away or selling AFFF to any other fire departments.

2. Secure the AFFF tanks and containers from the elements.

3. Store the containers strictly inside a shed or building.

4. Make use of secondary containment to avert AFFF release to the environment when there is an accident or a spill in the storage area.

5. Make sure to label the tanks and containers with the manufacture date, contents, and any hazards that the contents might pose.

6. Keep the tanks and containers clean to check whether there are any signs of leakage or any other issues when you check them.

In conclusion, firefighter foam, though effective in extinguishing dangerous flames, poses much harm to human health. Once affected, firefighters and others have the option to file a lawsuit and seek the fair compensation they deserve by following the guidance of a lawyer. However, it is also essential to adhere to a few safety practices that will go a long way in alleviating health risks at work.

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New Snowflake Report Unveils Average of 90 AI-Apps Built Per Day in 2023

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Snowflake report unearths Python as the programming language of choice for AI development, while the processing of unstructured data has increased by 123 percent in the past year

Large language models (LLMs) are increasingly being used to create chatbots, according to Data Cloud company Snowflake. As generative AI continues to revolutionize the industry, chatbots have grown from being approximately 18 percent of the total LLM apps available, to now encompassing 46 percent as of May 2023 — and that metric is only climbing. In addition, after surveying Streamlit’s developer community, it was found that nearly 65 percent of respondents noted that their LLM projects were for work purposes, signaling a shift in the importance of harnessing generative AI to improve workforce productivity, efficiency, and insights. 

These results are based on usage data from more than 9,000 Snowflake customers, and summarized in Snowflake’s new “Data Trends 2024” report. The report focuses on how global enterprise business and technology leaders are leveraging resources such as AI to build their data foundation and transform future business operations. The new data shows a shift from LLM applications with text-based input (2023: 82%, 2024: 54%) to chatbots with iterative text input, offering the ability to have a natural conversation.

“Conversational apps are on the rise, because that’s the way humans are programmed to interact. And now it is even easier to interact conversationally with an application,” explains Jennifer Belissent, Principal Data Strategist at Snowflake. “‘We expect to see this trend continue as it becomes easier to build and deploy conversational LLM applications, particularly knowing that the underlying data remains well governed and protected. With that peace of mind, these new interactive and highly versatile chatbots will meet both business needs and user expectations.”

Over 33,000 LLM Applications in Nine Months

The report also shows that 20,076 developers from Snowflake’s Streamlit community of developers have built over 33,143 LLM apps in the past nine months. When it comes to developing AI projects, Python is the programming language of choice due to its ease of use, active community of developers, and vast ecosystem of libraries and frameworks. In Snowpark, which enables developers to build apps quickly and cost-effectively, the use of Python grew significantly faster than that of Java and Scala (in the past year)— Python grew by 571 percent, Scala by 387 percent, and Java by 131 percent. With Python, developers can work faster, accelerating prototyping and experimentation—and therefore overall learnings as developer teams make early forays into cutting-edge AI projects.

In terms of where application development is taking place, the trend is towards programming LLM applications directly on the platform on which the data is also managed. This is indicated by a 311 percent increase in Snowflake Native Appswhich enables the development of apps directly on Snowflake’s platform –  between July 2023 and January 2024. Developing applications on a single data platform eliminates the need to export data copies to third-party technologies, helping develop and deploy applications faster, while reducing operational maintenance costs.

Data Governance in Companies is Growing in Importance

With the adoption of AI, companies are increasing analysis and processing of their unstructured data. This is enabling companies to discover untapped data sources, making a modern approach to data governance more crucial than ever to protect sensitive and private data. The report found that enterprises have increased the processing of unstructured data by 123 percent in the past year. IDC estimates that up to 90 percent of the world’s data is unstructured video, images, and documents. Clean data gives language models a head start, so unlocking this untapped 90 percent opens up a number of business benefits.

“Data governance is not about locking down data, but ultimately about unlocking the value of data,” said Belissent. “We break governance into three pillars: knowing data, securing data and using data to deliver that value. Our customers are using new features to tag and classify data so that the appropriate access and usage policies can be applied. The use of all data governance functions has increased by 70 to 100 percent. As a result, the number of queries of protected objects has increased by 142 percent. When the data is protected, it can be used securely. That delivers peace of mind.”

“Taken individually, each of these trends is a single data point that shows how organizations across the globe are dealing with different challenges. When considered together, they tell a larger story about how CIOs, CTOs, and CDOs are modernizing their organizations, tackling AI experiments, and solving data problems — all necessary steps to take advantage of the opportunities presented by advanced AI,” says Belissent. “The important thing to understand is that the era of generative AI does not require a fundamental change in data strategy. It does, however, require accelerated execution of that strategy. It requires breaking down data silos even faster and opening up access to data sources, wherever they may be in the company or across a broader data ecosystem.”

The full report “Data Trends 2024 ” can be found here.

*** 

Report Methodology

The Snowflake Data Trends Report 2024 is generated from fully aggregated, anonymized data detailing usage of the Snowflake Data Cloud and its integrated features and tools. In this report, we examine patterns and trends in data and AI adoption across more than 9,000 global Snowflake accounts. The Snowflake Data Cloud provides insight into the state of data and AI, including which technologies are the fastest growing. Note that usage attributable to internal consumption, if any, has been removed and is not reflected in any of the metrics contained herein. The accounts and usage reflected in this report represent every major industry and include both longtime Snowflake users and others who only recently joined the Data Cloud.

About Snowflake

Snowflake enables every organization to mobilize their data with Snowflake’s Data Cloud. Customers use the Data Cloud to unite siloed data, discover and securely share data, power data applications, and execute diverse AI/ML and analytic workloads. Wherever data or users live, Snowflake delivers a single data experience that spans multiple clouds and geographies. Thousands of customers across many industries, including 691 of the 2023 Forbes Global 2000 (G2K) as of January 31, 2024, use Snowflake Data Cloud to power their businesses. Learn more at snowflake.com.

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