Indian Institute of Technology Madras researchers have developed a solar-powered unmanned autonomous survey craft for Indian ports and inland waterways. It can undertake autonomous hydrographic and oceanographic surveys and provide real-time data transmission over a long distance.
This system could be equipped with an echo sounder, GPS System and broadband communication technology, capable of delivering precise depth measurements. In addition to echo sounder and GPS system, it is possible to add additional oceanographic payloads (current and velocity measurements), 360-degree Camera, LiDAR for seamless topography and bathymetry measurements.
The craft had a successful field-test recently off the Chennai Coast at Kamarajar Port. Further field trials under harsher environments have been scheduled during November 2020 at Syama Prasad Mookerjee (SMP) Port, Kolkata. The Autonomous Survey Craft was developed by a Research Team at National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts (NTCPWC) in IIT Madras. The Researchers are already in the process of commercializing this technology with the help of Ministry of Shipping, Government of India, and IIT Madras Incubation Cell.
Highlighting the major impact of developing this Autonomous Survey Craft, Prof. K. Murali, Professor In-Charge, NTCPWC, IIT Madras, said, “This is a significant leap towards indigenization of the Indian Maritime Sector, which is currently dominated by foreign technology. The craft is capable of delivering precise and accurate depth measurements even in very shallow waters. This Autonomous Survey Craft will help to meet the increasing demands for volume and efficiency as ships are becoming larger, with maximum loading to ensure the most efficient operations.”
Further, Prof. Murali, who is also the Head, Department of Ocean Engineering, IIT Madras, said, “The craft can undertake autonomous hydrography surveys at different times of the day to identify the navigable paths that can be used for operational window and navigational guidance. It has been developed to carry out survey operations in areas such as ports, harbours, waterways, dams, lakes, lagoons and other shallow water zones. It can be operated in manual mode by a remote-control setup or as a fully autonomous vehicle.”
The craft is fully solar-powered. It can endure five to several more hours depending on user requirements.
The research team included:
1. Prof Murali, Head, Department of Ocean Engineering. IIT Madras, and Professor In-Charge, National Technology Centre for Ports Waterways and Coasts (NTCPWC),
2. D Leo, Principal Scientist, NTCPWC,
3. Dr D Kumaran Raju, Principal Scientist, NTCPWC.
The Survey Craft Development is part of the research funding provided to the NTCPWC by the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India.
In addition, it can help some challenges that are being frequently encountered by the Port Administrators in India including:
Ø Surveys slow down the busy heavy traffic and even causing accidents
Ø Vessels to carry out the survey in the shallow area
Ø The high cost for periodical channel surveys