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The Homegrown Drone and the Story Behind It

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The Homegrown Drone and the Story Behind It

The Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is the leading research and development organization in IT, electronics and related fields. The organization is currently collaborating with several others on Exascale Computing, Quantum Computing, IoT and Blockchain.

Recently C-DAC launched its own drone, Industrial helicopter, developed on a homegrown board: Indus IoT. C-DAC claims the drone could help find contaminated areas in agricultural fields, monitor lake health, or even monitor air quality at different levels. To know more, Analytics India magazine contacted C-DAC.

OBJECTIVE: What is the difference between Indus IoT and other boards available on the market?

When you look at the differences between the current board we offer and available boards in the market with similar functionality, the big difference is in the way we support sensor interfaces.

Looking at other market products, if you need to integrate a sensor with that board, you have to stack another board that has the sensor on it. On the other hand, Indus IoT comes with six sensors that we offer at the competitive price that the market generally offers in other boards without all these sensors on board. So that’s the main USP that our board comes with.

GOAL: How was the drone conceptualized?

In October 2021, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the union minister of the Ministry of Electronics and IT, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, visited C-DAC’s factory in Bangalore and coincidentally launched our Indus IoT board at that time.

During the launch, he suggested turning this board into a drone controller. Following the suggestion, we started working on the drone. With Indus IoT as the controller, we started looking for possible applications that traditional drone developers were not considering at the time.

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As a result, we encountered distributed water quality in lakes and agricultural fields that had been affected by infections. There was no application to separate such types of lakes or fields, so we started working on a drone keeping such applications in mind.

PURPOSE: The drone has USB 2.0 instead of USB 3.0 or USB C type, why is that?

We must understand that for any drone or other equipment there will be multiple use cases at the same time. We shouldn’t use it just because the technology is available. It is based on the costs and requirements of the supply chain.

Although our system falls under microdrones, the application platform does not change. Since we also want to make this a development platform for people to learn drone applications, it also needs to be as cost-effective as possible for people to experiment.

The required bandwidth comes there when we transmit video through the drone, which we took care of. The entire data can be transmitted wirelessly via bluetooth. USB is only needed if the drone needs an upgrade, so USB 2.0 is ideal according to our requirements.

GOAL: AI in drones is a basic technology, why doesn’t Indus Copter have it?

You are right, AI is a very important part of the drone ecosystem these days. A model with AI capabilities will be on board in a few months.

We’re also working on two approaches, one is kind of edge computing at the drone and then we have a dedicated server for other processing. So it’s sort of two computers working together in sync to get better out of the data in real time. This is all arriving very soon and we are also in talks with an IIT professor who works in this field.

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GOAL: You are also working on Blockchain elections, what is stopping you from implementing it?

Not only the voting, but the whole process needs to be renewed, for example the candidate’s access to the vote or the verification of his identity. The blockchain will only ensure that the integrity is maintained and there is no wrong claim or anything like that. The structure eliminates a single point of failure and inherently protects sensitive citizen and government data.

However, the implementation part requires many processes to be defined and approved by the Election Commission. If the governing bodies agree on the big thing, then only they can move forward. Similar is the case of decentralized identity. The concept is revolutionary, but India has about 1.3 billion people and it depends on the administration how they deal with it now.

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