Friday, February 22, 2019

When big fighters in miniature form took centre stage at Aero India

Bengaluru: A barrel roll while zipping over the tarmac, a steep vertical climb followed by a rapid descent, and a formation where machines come dangerously close to each other... Images that are often associated with supersonic fighter jets in air shows of Aero India came alive in their miniature form on Thursday.

For the first time, the air show had a display by model aeroplanes and a competition for drones — the Drone Olympics — which saw 17 teams vying for cash prizes totalling ₹36 lakh. In the run-up to Aero India, 57 drones tested their mettle and 17 made it to the finals, held on Thursday. While the number was lower than what Ministry of Defence officials had expected, they believed it was a “good enough start” to what would hopefully propel the private Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry in the country.

The drones were tested in various categories — surveillance, which involved fixed vertical takeoff and landing and was judged on flight times and ability to detect human-sized targets; weight drop challenge in which light-weight drones dropped 2-kg package — perhaps medicines or essential supplies — to targets 2 km away; and flying formation.

UAS-DTU, a team of undergraduate students from Delhi Technological University, won the top honours in flying formations, which included a delicate dance of numerous shapes and forms between multiple drones in the air. Pranjal Shiva, team leader, said that while the hardware was sourced, the algorithm which dictated the movement of drones and autonomous flying was developed by the students. “We worked really hard for the competition, spending ₹2 lakh to ₹3 lakh to come for the competition as well as ₹2 lakh to ₹5 lakh on the drones. But what gave us the edge was that we were a tightly knit team of 22 students passionate about such competitions,” he said.
22/02/19 Mohit M Rao/The Hindu