Young geeks to develop drones with social utility

The word ‘drone’ conjures up images of war. But a bunch of young engineers here has set out to clear this negative air. They dream of drones with a difference; drones with social utility.

A year after winning the Nasa Systems Engineering Award for designing an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, commonly known as drone, members of the team called Vyoma at the RV College of Engineering (RVCE) here, are all set to scale new heights with their initiative ‘Skylark Drones’.

From using drones for land surveillance, aerial advertising or for assisting in aerial shots for films, the young entrepreneurs are developing commercially viable UAVs.

In April 2013, a team of students from the RVCE won the first prize in SAE Aero Design Competition held in California, US. It was adjudged the best among 75 teams.

Mrinal Pai, who was one of the 10 students who worked on the project, decided to extend his learning beyond the college laboratory.

Two of his friends shared the same enthusiasm, and that led to the birth of Skylark.

“Drones are perceived to be weapons of destruction. Why should such technologies be used only as weapons of war,” Pai said.

“The answer to this question led us to develop products that bring these drones into a social atmosphere where they perform innovative, safe and beneficial applications.”

For the contest, their mandate was to design a light UAV. Developing on it further, they aim to make multirotor UAVs that can hover around a place and capture images.

The entrepreneur explained: “In a city like Bangalore where real estate is booming, these drones can assist in land surveillance.

People now use helicopters and spend Rs 2-3 lakh per hour on it. The same can be executed at a fraction of the cost, perhaps Rs 20,000, with these UAVs.”

Drones could be used in aerial advertising, too. Brands could aerially display their banners which would make way for innovation in advertising.

What they have currently designed covers a radius of two km, Pai added.

For the last six months, the team has been working on this dream and has developed nine instruments, including two multicopters.

Besides Pai - a mechanical engineer who has been working on design of fixed wing and multirotor UAVs for the last four years - the team has Anirudh Shenoy, an instrumentation engineer who is an expert in electronics on board UAVs, and Mughilan Thiru Ramasamy, who is involved in enhancing the technology of the UAVs.

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