A young man from Karnataka Prathap NM was hailed in Kannada media as “drone” Prathap for claiming to have extraordinary achievements. A few English websites like Deccan Herald and India Times have also penned articles on Prathap which are essentially a list of his ‘achievements’. Among the never heard of awards and accolades that feature in these reports is another accomplishment — 600 drones built at the age of 22. However, quite ironically, there are no videos or pictures of Prathap actually building any such drones.
In a recent article, Alt News had debunked rumours claiming that Prime Minister Modi inducted the young man into the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
After doubts were raised over his achievements, Prathap provided ‘proof’ in a recent interview with Kannada channel Btv News Kannada. Upon being questioned by the anchor that he does not have pictures of self-made drones, Prathap took out his phone and showed a photograph to viewers where he is posing with a drone. This can be watched at around 33 minutes in the broadcast.
Drone built by German company BillzEye
Bill Gutbier, owner of Germany-based BillzEye, issued a statement on his company’s website that the drone flashed by Prathap was built by BillzEye and exhibited at CEBIT 2018, Hanover Exhibition Center.
The statement said that Prathap was curious about the drone and asked questions which Gutbier happily answered. Subsequently, Prathap requested if he could click a photograph of the drone ‘BETH-01’. “All drones that were exhibited on the pedestals of my booth, especially the “BETH-01” with Mr Prathap shown in the picture, are the property of BillzEye – Multicoptersysteme. Mr Prathap has nothing to do with the design, development, manufacture or distribution of this drone. He is not an employee, cooperation partner or shareholder of BillzEye – Multicoptersysteme. This drone, which is the focus of his photo, was specially designed, constructed and manufactured by Bill Gutbier. All of this can be demonstrated using many documents, CAD files and photos,” wrote Gutbier.
CEBIT 2018 held in Germany is the same drone expo where Prathap claimed that he was awarded the “Albert Einstein Innovation Gold Medal”. But his picture with the drone he claims to have built was constructed by BillzEye. Furthermore, multiple Google search attempts with different keywords do not throw up any “Albert Einstein” award or “gold medal”. The results ironically only show reports of Prathap receiving the award. The Better India had published an article on Prathap earlier in January where the award was mentioned. The website has now taken down its report clarifying, among other things, “After the publication of the article, the organisers of the events in Germany responded to our second round of queries stating they did not host any such awards.”
This wasn’t the only time Prathap posed with a drone that wasn’t his. Another photograph was widespread on the internet and also shared by Prathap on his Instagram account. The same image was carried by The New Indian Express’s Edexlive.
If one notices carefully, the drone carries the logo of Japan-based ACSL.
Earlier in February, a Reddit user claimed that he wrote to the COO of ACSL to inquire about Prathap and the company said that they do not recognise anybody by that name. The user attached a screenshot of ACSL COO Satoshi Washiya’s response according to which the drone in the image is ACSL PF-1 and it was completely built in-house.
Prathap NM, therefore, claims to have built 600 drones but has not been able to produce any visuals of his creations. In fact, he has misrepresented drones of other companies as his own. Alt News tried contacting Prathap for a comment but he is yet to respond. This whole episode of a Karnataka resident portraying himself as one of the youngest “drone scientists” India has ever produced also points to the gullibility of the media. Based on just his word, he was made out to be a prodigy who is making the country proud across the world.