BENGALURU: A student team from the Indian Institute of Science was recently adjudged as the ‘Best New Entry’ in the graduate category in the annual Student Design Competition conducted by the American Helicopter Society International.
The American Helicopter Society, in association with major helicopter companies, has been conducting the Student Design Competition for more than three decades. In each edition, students are asked to submit their entries on an open design problem chosen by the organisers. The jury consists of experts from both academia and industry. This is the first time an IISc team entered the competition that is normally won by the top three helicopter schools of the USA.
“It is indeed a proud moment and a wonderful experience to be recognised by the world’s most renowned vertical flight society (AHS International) through this long-standing competition,” says Rajnish Mallick, who led Team Lakshya. Rajnish recently earned a PhD in aerospace engineering from IISc.
The challenge was to design an uninhabited small helicopter system that can deliver packets to customers in urban settings. The system had be able to carry stuff weighing up to 10 kg, and deliver it to the right customers in an urban area that is almost ten times as big as Bengaluru. There were quite a few operational constraints too. As Abhiram D R, co-Team Lead and NMCAD Lab PhD student, says, “The noise level had to be lower than a prescribed limit, and the carbon footprint had to be minimal. Last but not least, the aerial vehicle had to manoeuvre carefully enough to avoid collisions with buildings or getting entangled with the electrical wires”.
Team Lakshya tackled the problem with two types of vehicles - a conventional helicopter UAV to deliver heavier packages and a quad-rotor to deliver lighter packages.
The unmanned vehicles, partly powered by the energy extracted from the oscillations of the blade had a significantly lower carbon foot print than those powered fully by fossil fuels.
“Personally for me, having graduated from arguably the best helicopter school in the world, Georgia Tech, the current situation is analogous to a dad taking greater pride in his kids’ achievements than his own!” says a proud Dineshkumar Harursampath, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Science. Four students from his NMCAD Lab joined hands with complementary labs in IISc and formed a team. The team was ably guided by Proffessors Harursampath, Ganguli and Omkar and supported by two technical consultants from the Indian industry.
MultiFun, the technology for harvesting energy from blade vibrations is developed by the NMCAD lab, and the lab is in the process of securing the intellectual property rights.