Student-built UAV to be put to the test in Uttarakhand

Mr Hemanth HI, a final year BE student, who has constructed the device at a cost of Rs 5 lakh, says it would be useful in search and rescue operations as it is capable of relaying images in real time and is ideal for aerial survey in remote and inaccessible locations Relief efforts in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand were hampered as much by the terrain — narrow valleys, steep mountains and damaged roads — as by inclement weather. Helicopters were at the forefront of relief efforts, but rotorcraft proved very fallible with at least three, including an Indian Air Force M1-17 with 20 people on board, crashing. Mr Hemanth HI, a final year BE (Information Science) student in Davangere, has designed an unmanned aerial vehicle which could bolster relief efforts in natural disasters. Christened ‘Octocopter’, the vehicle is not a substitute for helicopters, but could help with search operations, especially in remote and hard to access locations. Mr Hemanth plans to deploy the Octocopter in Uttarakhand once he obtains the necessary permissions. It took the 24-year-old Mr Hemanth four years to build the vehicle. It is basically a global positioning system (GPS)-enabled device capable of lifting a maximum payload (a red epic camera in this case) of six kilograms. Images captured by the camera can be relayed live within a range of 1.4 km or the data can be recorded. “The device is currently being used to obtain aerial shots in movies, but I will soon be going to Uttarakhand with my friends and will try out the device there,” Mr Hemanth told Bangalore Mirror. “I felt it will be useful to personnel in Uttarakhand who are carrying flood relief work as it can reach remote areas and deliver real-time footage.” The 3 kg device, built at a cost of Rs 5 lakh, was designed at Brain Wing, Mr Hemanth’s workshop. It is powered by eight brushless motors fitted with eight propellers. The entire structure is made of carbon fibre, which is eight times stronger and 12 times lighter than steel. The Octocopter is powered by software and integrated with GPS programming that makes it work on preset commands. It consumes 10,000 amps to fly 10 minutes and is capable of flying through up to50 way points assigned before it lands in the same place where it takes off from. “Three factors decide its flight: Speed, height and turning angle,” said Mr Hemanth. “Once this data is fed into a laptop, the device takes off, records footage at set way points (along a predetermined route and at set points) and will return to the same spot it took off from. Though used for aerial shooting, the Octocopter will prove handy in relief work. It can fly for up to 10 minutes on a full charge, but batteries can be added to increase flying time and distance. Footage can be down linked live or can be recorded. As it is a compact device, it is an alternative to choppers which are constrained by weather conditions and landing terrain.” Mr M N Subramani, a former Indian Air Force staff and president Air Force Friends Association, admits that the Octocopter could be handy in relief operations. “This is certainly an innovative solution from a young engineering student,” Mr Subramani said. “It could be useful in relief operations. However, he will have to get permission from civil aviation and air force authorities to deploy the device. In areas where helicopters cannot fly due to weather conditions and terrain, this unmanned vehicle will certainly be a good alternative.”


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