A week after OpIndia published a detailed fact-check on the claims of Prathap NM, who has been dubbed as the ‘drone boy’ and a drone scientist for making over 600 drones using e-waste like broken mixer grinders and televisions, the 22-year-old Prathap on Thursday responded to the all allegations against him.
Speaking to a Kannada news network, Prathap NM, who has been hailed as the ‘Drone Scientist’ across the country, took questions from the anchor Kirik Keerthi. Citing OpIndia reports that had earlier debunked most of the claims made by the 22-year-old, the anchor put forward various questions to Prathap seeking clarifications for various assertions he had made over the last two years.
Medals, Awards, and recognitions
Earlier, we had reported in much detail on the discrepancies in Prathap’s claims about him winning three awards in Germany in 2018. Prathap had claimed to have won the “Albert Einstein Innovation Gold Medal” in the International Drone Expo 2018 held at Hanover in Germany, a gold medal in the International Drone Expo held in Germany. He had also claimed that he had secured first place in CeBIT Drone Expo-2018 at Hanover, Germany, and also bagged the gold medal in International Robotic Exhibition held at Tokyo, Japan, in December 2017.
In our report, we have detailed how there is no evidence of any such awards and medals given in the events claimed by Prathap, and some of the events also does not exist. The websites of the organisations that hold the events do not mention any such award, and Prathap’s name is not mentioned as winner of any such award or medal.
We had also mentioned how Prathap, despite winning all the awards did not have a single photograph or video showing him receiving such awards. There are few photographs of him with such medals and awards, but they are not from any ceremony where he received them.
There is also not a single photo or video of any drone built by the ‘drone boy’. While there are some photographs of Prathap with some drones, all of them are commercially produced drones made by various companies, and he had just got himself with them in technology expos in various countries like Japan, Germany etc.
Drone boy Prathap shows certificates from organisations which have claimed they are fake
Responding to all the allegations of OpIndia, Prathap NM cited few certificates pertaining to the awards he claimed to have won during the show. Interestingly, the 22-year-old “scientist” did not display any of the medals in the live show but displayed few certificates, whose authenticity is still questionable. Although, video clips of a medal with the text ‘Albert Einstein Innovation Medal’ one side and at ‘CeBIT 2018 Hannover’ on the other side was shown in the show.
The first set of certificates shown by Prathap, as he claimed in the show was from the International Robotic Exhibition in Tokyo, Japan. He displayed two sets of certificates, which were interestingly different from the viral images on the internet. The certificates displayed by Prathap did not have an Airbus logo on them, which was very much present in the earlier certificates, which he had claimed to have won from Japan.
The anchor also asked him how could there be a spelling mistake on the certificate of such a prestigious award. The spelling of vehicle was mistakenly written as ‘Vehical’ on the certificate issued by IReX. Responding to the discrepancies, the 22-year-old “Drone boy” said that it was a mistake on his part to misspell the word and stated that it has not been committed by the organisers.
Further, a mail written by a social media user to check the authenticity of the claims was posted on social media. The user had posted an image of his conversation with the Japan Robot Association, the organization which hosted the International Robot Exhibition 2017. The organizers have categorically stated that there was no robotic competition during the year-2017.
It may be noted that the International Robot Exhibition (IReX) held in Tokyo is a trade fair where companies making robots participate. College and university students with their robots also take part in the show, but there is no competition of drones or robots in the event, and there is no record of Prathap winning the first prize, or any prize, in the event.
The second certificate which Prathap displayed in the show pertains to the ‘Albert Einstein Innovation Award’.
Despite clarifications from Prathap, there are too many inconsistencies in his claims with respect to the ‘Albert Einstein Innovation Award‘ as there are no such awards in the first place. When searched about ‘Albert Einstein Innovation Medal’ at ‘CeBIT Drone Expo 2018’, the search results only point to a single name of Prathap, and no sources are attached to it.
On the certificate shown by Prathap in the live show, it can be seen that it is written as ‘Albert Einstein Innovation Medal’ on the top, whereas it is written as ‘Albert Einstein Innovation Award’ below.
Below the certificate, there is a name mentioned – Wolfram von Fritsch, who is claimed to be the CEO of ‘Deutsche Messe’, which is responsible for the expo. However, Wolfram von Fritsch resigned from the post in 2017 even before the expo, who was replaced by Dr. Jochen Köckler back in 2017 itself. The certificate awarded to Pratap in 2018 has Wolfram von Fritsch’s name as CEO raising suspicion over his claims.
Deutesche Messe, the organiser of the CeBIT expo, had already clarified that they don’t give the awards as claimed by Prathap, to an email query by one of our readers, Saniya Sharma.
Jutta Jakobi, the Global Director of Deutsche Messe AG, the organisation that organises the CeBIT expo, had informed that they never had an Albert Einstein Award at CEBIT 2018. She also informed that Dr. Wolfram von Fritsch left Deutsche Messe already back in 2017. As the CEO left the organisation in 2017, his signature can’t be there in a genuine certificate issued in 2018.
But as Prathap showed the same certificate in the TV interview yesterday, we sent them the screenshots of the certificate and medal shown in the TV show asking whether they are genuine, and the Global Director of Deutsche Messe AG replied with reiterating the same, saying that the certificate is fake.
Jutta Jakobi categorically stated, “No award! No drone award! Dr von Fritsch left the Company in 2017”. She also declared, “This is all fake!”
We have also sent mail to Deutsche Messe’s India office, and they also categorically denied any Drone competition for individuals in their CeBIT expo in Germany. The screenshot of the mail sent by the company’s director in India is given below.
From mails by both India and Germany offices of Deutsche Messe, it clear that they have been receiving too many inquiries about Prathap, and they are tired off telling everyone that his claims are fake.
So, the pertinent question that arises is how did Prathap then got hold of such a certificate at a time when there is no such award or medal in the first place.
When we looked into such certificates, we found an identical certificate available on stock vector image sites on the internet. The stock image has the same design as Prathap’s certificate, but it has dummy text on it. Which means, anyone can download the file, replace the dummy text with text of their choice and print them. Although it may be claimed that CeBIT used a stock image to print certificates, that seems highly unlikely, as large organisations have in house design teams for such jobs, or they get custom designs made by agencies, rather than using off-the-shelf designs.
With “Drone boy” Prathap failing to show any medals during the live show and only submitting few ‘purported’- unauthenticated certificates, additionally with the denial from the organisations named in the certificates, can be stated that his claims of winning medals, awards are not proved,
The ‘Drone Boy’ Prathap, who was then questioned on the authenticity of his claims regarding four countries honouring him with ‘Young Scientist Awards’, he said he had mistakenly mentioned it as ‘awards’ and also clarified that it was actually a recognition.
He claimed that four countries, Japan, France, Germany and ‘Africa’ had honoured him with ‘Young Scientist Honour’ and not an award. However, he did not show any documents to prove the same citing non-disclosure agreements.
Evidence of Drones made by “Drone Boy”
One of the strongest criticism against “Drone boy” Prathap is that he has never displayed a drone, which he claims to have developed. Prathap, who claims to have developed over 600 drones in the past two years, yet again failed to display any of his creations on the live show. He didn’t bring any drone built by him using e-waste, neither showed any photo or video that shows his drones.
Instead, he showed an image to the show anchor on a phone, where he was standing next to a drone. Although the full image was not shown on screen, the phone was shown, where we can see that Prathap is standing next to a drone.
On close examination, it can be seen it is the same image which was published in an article on by BetterIndia. Again, it is a drone displayed at an expo, which can be determined by seeing the posters in the background. This is a drone made by BillzEye Multicoptersysteme, which was displayed at the CEBIT 2018.
This is a racecopter made by BillzEye, which means this drone is used in racing competition of drones. Prathap had visited the expo, and got himself photographed with the drone on display.
This means, Prathap NM showed the image of a drone made by a German company to the anchor in the show to prove that he has build drones. Moreover, the image of the drone at the expo has been shared by the company on social media, hence it can be easily fact-checked, but still, he chose to show it in the TV show.
Citing that most of his drones are unregistered, Prathap said he could not display his drones and promised to develop and showcase his drones in the near future. Earlier in another media interaction he had claimed that he can’t show the drones due to intellectual property issues.
Prathap’s response to African Black Mamba story
In the show, Prathap also clarified regarding his claims of using his drone to deliver antivenom to an 8-year-old girl who was bitten by a snake in Sudan.
Earlier, he had said that he used his Eagle 2.8 drone to deliver anti-venom to a kid within a few minutes, which would have taken at least 10 hours to deliver on road. We had described how the claims he had made did not add up as there are no drones in the entire world that could match such speed.
As the anchor pointed out all the scientific facts to Drone boy” Prathap, the 22-year-old “Drone Boy” said that the entire incident was entirely factual but he may have missed certain points and stated wrong facts in the ‘heat of the moment’.
According to Prathap, the road journey need to reach the snake-bitten girl was not 10 hours but only three-four hours. He also revealed that the drone he which operated was not entirely created by him, but was more of a collaboration.
Even if the location was 3-4 hours by road instead of 10 hours, it would still mean a distance of around 60-100 km, which is still beyond the longest range of commercially available rotary wing battery powered drones.
“Drone Boy” Prathap fails to display his technical knowledge on drones
As the show progressed, one of Prathap’s friend identified as Darshan appeared on the show. Darshan, who was introduced as a ‘classmate’ of the “Drone Boy” posed some questions to Prathap.
Darshan, as he posed questions, said that he wanted to check Prathap’s technical knowledge on drones rather than debunking his other claims. Darshan did not want to let go of the opportunity to check Prathap’s technical know-how on drone amidst all the other noise. He asked the 22-year-old “Drone Boy” to explain the system of ‘Drag and lift’, an essential concept concerning drones and aeronautics.
Darshan said he was a researcher of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from Tokyo, studying at one of the imperial universities of Japan, which is considered to be the Ivy leagues of Japan.
However, Prathap not only failed to respond to his questions but also said that the show was not the right place and time to discuss such technical topics. He also said that he would respond to Darshan’s questions at a later date by communicating him through a mail.
The Japan visit of the “Drone Boy”
Prathap shows his passport and visa to Japan, as a proof that he had indeed gone to Japan and participated in the expo in Tokyo.
The show also contacted another person, who had helped Prathap with money during his Tokyo visit. Prathap asked him to confirm that he had helped Prathap, which he confirmed, saying that he had helped Prathap as he was struggling to communicate with taxi driver due to language issue, and he also gave him some money. Prathap sought to use this testimony to prove that he had actually visited Japan, and therefore his claim of winning awards also true.
But the fact is, OpIndia report never said that he didn’t visit Tokyo. In fact, we had found that he had visited an expo in Japan where he had got himself photographed with commercially made drones at an expo, which were later circulated as drones made by him. Therefore, whether he visited Japan and attended expos is not a matter of debate. But there is still no proof any drone made by him and any award won by him, and the organisers of the award have denied issuing the awards.
The curious case of Prathap’s visit to 87 countries and French citizenship
In a speech delivered by Prathap, he had claimed that he had visited nearly 87 countries in the past to exhibit his drones and deliver lectures in different universities. As the anchor showed one of his old speech videos, where he had claimed of possessing four passports, the 22-year-old ‘scientist’ said that he had erred yet again in saying that he had four passports and clarified that he had only two passports. If that claim is correct, it is a crime to have multiple passports, and India does not allow dual citizenship.
During the show, another video of Prathap was also telecast in which he had claimed that the French government had offered him a citizenship considering his achievements. When questioned about the fact of the matter, Prathap confessed that he had lied about it.
The 22-year-old drone “Drone Boy” said that it was not the French government which had offered him the citizenship but a third-party individual who had promised him of helping to obtain French citizenship if he ever settles in France.
Prathap claims to have studies 70,000 research paper, delivered talks in NASA
In one of his speeches, Prathap had claimed that he had studied more than 70,000 research papers in the last two years. As the anchor questioned the veracity of such a ridiculous claim, the “Drone Boy” defended his statements by stating that he only read the abstracts of the research papers and not the research paper in entirety.
If analysed closely, Prathap’s claim of studying 70,000 research papers in a span of two years defies logic as it turns out, if it is believed, he claims to have studied close to 95 papers in a day.
Prathap had also stated that he had visited NASA John F Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, United States to deliver a lecture and also claimed of delivering lectures in universities such as Oxford university of United Kingdom, Stanford University of USA. However, he later said that he never claimed to have done so but delivered presentation at these places and not lectures.
During the entire show, the “Drone Boy” Prathap went on to claim that all his proofs were in his email and could not be disclosed due to non-disclosure agreements.
As we have seen, Prathap failed to show any drone built by him, and gave bizarre explanations for not showing them. He showed one photograph of a drone which is built by a German company. And the organisations from whom he has claimed to have received awards and medals have denied the existence of such awards and medals.