In the age of stealth war and space technology aerial robotics is gaining quite a momentum. The domain has since stirred interest of the young techno enthusiasts and has found an obvious way
among the students at India’s top engineering colleges. Leading the trend, a group of students at IIT Kharagpur are working towards building autonomous aerial vehicles.
Named Aerial Robotics Kharagpur or ARK in short, this is an initiative under the Centre for Excellence in Robotics funded by the Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy facility of the Institute. The Centre has received funding from the Institute to the extent of Rs. 5 crores for 12 projects.
Under the ARK initiative, drones are being developed which would be capable of autonomous flight, localization in GPS denied environments, tracking and interacting with mobile ground robots as well as other drones, and much more. “ARK aims to develop a flexible aerial robotics framework which can be easily used to control aerial vehicles and eventually move to multiple decentralised aerial robot swarms in an outdoors setting. Robotics intends to develop drones using indigenous hardware and software. These have various applications including tracking during search and rescue operations” said Prof. Somesh Kumar of the Department of Mathematics who is heading the initiative.
“Aerial Robotics is a state of the art research in the field of robotics. It requires people having expertise in various fields like Computer Vision, Image processing, Control Theory, Embedded electronics, Mechanical design. Therefore research opportunities in this field are uncountable. There are several areas where aerial robots can be deployed such as agriculture technology, mine surveying, surveillance, etc. Aerial robots can be deployed to all those areas where human interaction is impossible either because of life risks or because of unreachability” said Gaurav Gardi, a 4 th year student of M.Sc. Physics working in the project.
The group recently participated in the International Aerial Robotics Competition, Asia-Pacific Venue during 23-24th September, 2016 in Beijing China. This is the longest running university-
based robotics competition in the world which began in 1991 on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Entering its third decade of advancing the state of the art in autonomous aerial robotic behaviour, the competition continues to tackle challenges that are currently impossible for any flying robots owned by government or industry. The mission of the competition in this edition required the competitors to make an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle which is capable of navigating in a GPS denied environment and manipulate moving ground robots avoiding the moving obstacles.
ARK was the only team from India which participated in the competition at the Asia-Pacific Venue. The team participated with a hexacopter designed by the students and completely made of wood and has been awarded "Best Team Cooperation Award" for their performance. The team members were Soumyadeep Mukherjee, Aditya Agarwal, Gaurav Gardi, Kumar Ankit, Kumar Krishna Agarwal, Manash Pratim Das, Sai Ram, Vishnu Sharma.
“ARK is very grateful to the Director's Initiative of Centre for Excellence in Robotics. We have got tremendous support from our Principle Investigator, Prof. Somesh Kumar and our mentors Prof. Jayanta Mukhopadhyaya, Prof. A K Deb and Prof. D.K Pratihar” added Gaurav.