Team Rakshak is a student initiative to develop a fleet of robust Unmanned Aerial Vehicles(UAVs) to support Search and Rescue Operations in the times of natural calamities. The team works on developing fixed-wing aircraft and multi-rotors for intelligence gathering.
How this journey started
A MILE OF HIGHWAY WILL TAKE YOU A MILE BUT
A MILE OF RUNWAY CAN TAKE YOU ANYWHERE
With this thought in mind, in 2015, Sandeep Prakash and his fellow enthusiastic students of IIT Bombay decided to have a dedicated student body for UAV development. They also aimed to build a sustainable environment for learning and experimentation with UAVs among the students. The team’s initial motivation was to use technology to assist rescue operations in the disaster stricken areas. UAVs can be extensively used for aerial surveys and airdrops of support packages and medical kits. Remote areas become accessible using this technology, and it helps save lives. The team’s name “RAKSHAK” means protector, after the main motive of the team.
We have developed five fixed-wing planes, and we are continuously working on new models for different problem statements.
Team Rakshak primarily participates in the AUVSI-SUAS competition, which is held every year. The competition requires students to design, integrate, report on, and demonstrate a UAS capable of autonomous flight and navigation, remote sensing via onboard payload sensors, and execution of a specific set of tasks.
The competition has three major elements: the Technical Design Paper, the Flight Readiness Review Presentation, and the Mission Demonstration. The paper details a team’s UAS design. The presentation details the team’s testing and preparedness for the competition. The demonstration simulates a mission in which the UAS and team are evaluated. The mission consists of autonomous flight, obstacle avoidance, object detection, and airdrop.
Technical design paper and flight readiness review are prepared before going for the competition. Each year there are few modifications in the problem statement of the competition to add new tasks and improve the overall quality of the UAVs developed. The missions are developed to simulate rescue operations. Major tasks are the following:
- Autonomous Flight
- Obstacle Avoidance
- Object Detection, Classification, Geo-tagging
- Payload Delivery
Preparing and participating in this competition allows the team to innovate in a competitive setting. While working on demanding tasks, all the members have to be able to collaborate effectively. It gives each team member an experience to understand others and put forward new ideas. We usually make many mistakes while preparing for the competition, and it eventually improves our work, and we continue learning from them.
We have participated twice in 2017 and 2018. We are determined to work hard and improve our standing the next time we participate in the competition.
Along with the AUVSI SUAS competition, we have also participated in INAE Youth Conclave 2019 at IIT Delhi and secured 1st position for our presentation on the topic ‘Lab to Market.’
The team is divided into four subgroups according to the nature of work. The subgroups are:
Aerodynamics and manufacturing: This subsystem deals with the design and manufacturing of the UAV. Tasks include conceptual design, CFD analysis of prototypes, designing the propulsion system, and finally, manufacturing the UAV.
Software: The Software subsystem is responsible for the onboard processing of the images collected during the mission. It includes identifying the potential targets, classifying them, and geotagging them for future purposes. Tasks include Image Processing and Machine Learning and building infrastructure for various other onboard tasks.
Controls and Communication: The subsystem conducts regular tests for sensors calibration and adjusts the controller gains. The UAV is given various flight paths during the test to assess the UAV’s performance and modify the control parameters to achieve acceptable performance. Communication is responsible for proper communication between plane and ground control stations. It is also responsible for interoperability, ie. autonomous upload of collected data to the remote servers.
Marketing: The marketing subsystem involves bringing the sponsors for the team. It also takes care of maintaining accounts and other logistics of the team. It is responsible for managing various social media handles of the team and maintaining the team website.
The team has two leaders and a subsystem head for each subsystem.
As every team is always looking for enthusiastic students, we always look for passionate people. We recruit new students once a year tentatively in April. For recruitment, an interview shortlist is prepared based on the assignments for each subsystem. The final interview is focused on testing the candidate’s overall enthusiasm and readiness to learn new things. Candidates are not expected to know technical things beforehand. Overall awareness and basic technical knowledge are expected.
Being a member of a team like Rakshak is a very engaging experience. Being a small team, it allows each member to put forward new ideas and changes. Everyone is always learning from others.
From a technical standpoint, someone working in the team stands to become proficient in various tasks involving their subsystem like:
Aerodynamics: Learning the methodology and intricacies associated with designing and building a plane. Becoming proficient in CAD modeling and computational simulations.
Software: Learning to implement ML models and image processing for real-life applications and becoming proficient with coding in python.
Controls: Learning about the working of a flight controller (Pixhawk) for the autonomous flight of a UAV and developing algorithms for efficient path planning in the presence of obstacles. Understanding the various modes of communication between the UAV and the ground station and working on collecting and transferring data to a server.
From a non-technical standpoint, one can expect to learn how to work together with multiple people, effectively communicate their ideas, give and take constructive criticism, and efficiently manage their time.
In the future, the team is looking forward to implementing UAV technology in various other fields such as urban development and crowd monitoring. For more information and updates, check out the team’s website.
IITB provides a lot of opportunities to cater to everyone’s hobbies and interests. With support from faculty advisors and fellow students, everyone can find something to engage themselves with and make productive use of their stay at IITB. Team Rakshak is one such means to satisfy your curiosity and bring innovation in the UAV development community.
Keep learning, and keep exploring.