Kolkata: Students at IIT Kharagpur are working on an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (UAV), which is more intelligent than drones and can perform assigned tasks under water like searching for debris of a flight crashed in the sea.
At the Centre for Robotics, students have already developed ‘Kraken 3.0', a prototype UAV which can go as deep as 10 metres in a pool of water just like a submarine. “We pre-program it so that it can do specifically assigned tasks like under-water surveying, identifying lost objects or debris, picking them up, etc. It can also be used for conducting repairs under the hull of a ship,” Abhay Kumar, who is leading the team of students, told PTI.
Armed with strong censors and cameras to detect its surroundings, the 1.3-metre-long under-water robot is a six-thruster model which can rotate itself in five directions. Drones can't be used under water because their wireless technologies do not work inside water. “Once an UAV is under water it has to take its own decisions. Therefore it has a higher level of intelligence than drones. A powerful on-board computer is part of the machine,” Kumar said.
The robots are also programmed to handle emergencies on their own.
“It may face obstacles under the water and so it is programmed how to act in case of an emergency,” the fourth-year undergraduate student of Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture department said.
Even in the case of the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which went missing last year in the Indian Ocean, UAVs were assigned to locate the debris inside the sea.
In India, the first such indigenous UAV was developed at the IIT a few years ago. Since then other institutes have also developed prototypes but real-life applications are still far away.
Mentored by Professor C S Kumar of the mechanical engineering department, the Centre for Robotics has students from different departments like Electronics, Computer Science, Ocean Engineering, physics, science, etc. Prof Kumar said the centre is an extra-curricular activity for the students.
“They work during evening and night hours. Here they learn more than what they do in the classroom,” he said. The students are now gearing themselves for participating in the International AUVSI RoboSub Competition to be held at California in July. It is meant for industries and students to display their skills in underwater robotics.
At the hydrodynamics lab, they are busy doing active testing to develop a rugged autonomous vehicle. The team aims to commercialise the vehicle as an education tool. Students say they are also interested in connecting with entrepreneurs in the field for partnerships.