IITKGP develops automated drones for surveillance and disaster management operations

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A research group from IIT Kharagpur has developed an autonomous unmanned aerial dronefor surveillance and para-dropping. Following the ‘Make in India’ campaign, the group led by Prof. Sudip Misra at the Smart Wireless Applications & Networking (SWAN) laboratory of the Institute have designed and prototypeda completely indigenous drone ‘BHIM’ with advanced features such as aerial surveillance, para-dropping of emergency supplies and post-disaster rescue operations. To couple with these features, the innovation has brought down the cost of the drone by about 30% compared to development cost of those available in the market.
 
The drone will typically find its application in aerial surveillance of areas with remote access. The most attractive feature of the drone for which it was named ‘BHIM’ is its ability to maintain long flight times and drop emergency supplies accurately using parachutes. It can also be used for rescue operations in remote and hard to access areas. In a country like India with a long land border with several countries and the tension at various border regions, this drone could be highly effective in disturbed areas in the border. Currently a large number of security personnel are engaged in patrolling. They can be supplemented with BHIM. The drone can conduct integrity check for boundary walls and find out breaches if any.
 
“It is powered by a complex combination of hardware and algorithms for drone stabilization against external environmental effects, object identification using deep learning and multi-radio communication between it and multiple ground-based observation stations. A graphic user interface has been created for accessing the aerial images and controlling various communication tasks. All these features set this BHIM drone miles apart from existing commercial drones.” explained Prof. Misra.
 
“The BHIM drone developed in the SWAN lab is powerful in the sense that they are equipped with attractive features such as the ability to take simultaneous images from two different aligned cameras and communicate with ground-based sensor nodes. These features give visual analytics of a location thus acting as a protection shield in case of ground military operation at areas infested with separatists or enemy troops” said Anandarup Mukherjee, research scholar at the Lab.
 
The drone has found its use as an agro technology convenient for India as well. “Typically commercial drones currently available can monitor large tracks of single plot. This is due to the fact that in the western countries huge plots of land are held by each farmer. However, the situation is different in India, wherein farmers have small holdings thus aerial monitoring not only proves expensive but data collected could be used by farmers of the adjacent lands. BHIM on the other hand has cameras which can zoom in and focus only on the plot of the farmer subscribing to the service” said Arijit Roy, another researcher.
 
The drone can also be used to deliver network connectivity where there is no conventional communication infrastructure. This feature enables its use for networked robotics.
 
The BHIM drone has been developed at a significantly reduced cost in comparison to the aerial drones available in the market. “The cost reduction which is calculated at little higher than 30% is due to omission of features not required for such drones, such as equipment for camera stabilization. Since algorithms are used in BHIM, it does not require additional equipment. Also 3-D printed materials have been used which has helped reducing the cost further” added researcher Abhishek Bera.
 
Prof. Misra is keen on seeing BHIM being used for addressing any societal problems. He is looking for any potential collaborator or partner in government or industry for transfer of technology.     
 
The group comprises of research scholars Anandarup Mukherjee, Abhishek Bera, Nidhi Pathak, Saswati Pal, Bapi Reddy, and Arijit Roy each working on a unique functionality of the drone, thus making it a multi-functional drone.