What can a 23-year-old do? Create drones for farmers to identify the difference between good and bad crop and save them from the hassle of middlemen with the help of technology? build robotic hand for the disabled and wheelchair that works on brain’s signals? This hidden gem of intelligence is from mana Hyderabad. Pranav Vempati fleshes out the subtle details of his journey into the world of amazing innovations
HYDERABAD: Rewind to 1989, when Robert Zemeckis made an avante garde movie ‘Back to the Future II’, people stared at the theatre screen with incredulity when the actors time travelled to 30 years in future just to be a spectator of flying cars, self-lacing shoes, self-fitting shirts, hoverboards that float in the air. In 2015, Jimmy Kimmel left no stone unturned in leaving everyone in splits by inviting the protagonists’ of the movie to his show and juxtaposed the delineation of the future in the movie with reality.
Like Jimmy said in the introspection, we had just reached to smart phones, slimmer laptops, selfies and hoverboard with wheels and doesn’t float in the air. Not anymore Jimmy! Because please get yourself introduced to Pranav Vempati, barely 23 vrooming his way into the realm of innovations. His forte, blending art with technology and socio-economic causes.
His office, Makers Hive in a posh locality of Film Nagar will have you welcomed by a furry boy called Newton, a four-month old Newfoundland puppy, an exotic Macau named Blue, two green Iguanas named Mr and Mrs Green and a red Iguana called ‘Red’dy Garu’. Just when you are amazed by this heartwarming pet friendly office, Pranav will leave you baffled while talking about his groundbreaking vision and work. “The idea of Makers Hive was laid by Dr Kalam. We are exporting minds to other countries like goods.
Reason – financial satisfaction, freedom of work and work culture abroad. If we are able to provide all the above under one umbrella, we can do some phenomenal product innovations. We have some service based companies like TCS, Wipro, and Infosys etc. which were started to solve the employment issue in the country. Since then, the situation as far as jobs is concerned has changed. Now, there is a paradigm shift happening in the country towards product innovation. We want to solve real world problems,” this twenty-something lad affirms.
“My mentor is the father of green revolution, MS Swaminathan. He once narrated to tell me that there was a time when Kalam sir was a project director at ISRO and the PM had visited. He saw a sweeper there and he asked him what he was doing. Instead of saying that he was sweeping the floor, he said that he is helping farmers in India. At that time, ISRO was sending satellites into space to help out farmers through satellite imagery. So, the point is everyone in the company felt their involvement towards the bigger cause. Everyone is working towards the bigger cause in the way they can.
The security is doing it by guarding the building and I am doing it by looking after all the things happening in the company. Everyone contributes in the way they can. We have 25 employees right now with 10 more coming this month,” he describes about his working fashion.
Pranav is working on a project currently to aid farmers identify bad crops well in advance and take remedial measures. This project, mentored by MS Swaminathan, aims at addressing the issues that were left out in his mentor’s Green Revolution. “We are educating “farmers in 13 different aspects through four phases namely planning, monitoring, connecting to the scientific community and finally selling their own produce thereby eliminating middlemen hassles,” says Pranav.
His second project involves designing prosthetic hands to help the handicapped. Having visited the Border Security Force, Pranav came across many youngsters who had lost their hands on the field. All the government had done was provided subsidised wooden hands to these victims, which Pranav adds do not provide the functionality of a normal hand. Pranav has developed two types of prosthetic robotic hands – one that can be appended to the elbow and one that can be appended to the shoulder for those who have lost their entire hand.
The difference between the two is the presence of electromyography signals – electrical impulses sent from the skeletal muscles in the former which can be used to close or open the fist, move fingers in the prosthetic. As an alternative to EMG, the full prosthetic limb uses signals that come directly from the brain. “Using this if a person thinks about closing or opening the hand, it can be done,” adds Pranav. While these prosthetics are available for around $30,000, Pranav aims at selling them for as less as $1,500.
“We want to extend the design to a brain controlled wheelchair for the paralysed. People who cannot move and need continuous assistance can use this. Three months from now, this entire office will be brain controlled. If I just enter the room and think about the light or fan switching on, it will happen. We are branching out into brain controlled home automation,” says Pranav.
Move over the drones we often see at wedding capturing the candid moments, Pranav is working on constructing drones that can be an ideal replacement for a satellite. “They are mounted with thermal imaging cameras, multi spectral cameras, and hyper spectral cameras. It is difficult for the government to use satellites as they are costly and high in the sky. You don’t get plot level pictures. With this drone, we will get reports at 150 rupees per acre. By the time a problem is visible to the farmer, nearly 60% of the damage is already done.
This is why they over spray pesticides as they are scared that their crops would be damaged. So what a multi spectral camera does is it captures these problems much before they become visible to the naked eye. This report gives a 15 day advance warning. Problems like nitrogen stress, water stress become visible.
The farmer may not know the science behind it but he can understand this pictorial representation and act on the problem,” explains the Loyola Academy Degree and PG College alumni. “In collaboration with MSSRF, we have drones with aerial sensors and we are installing weather stations that can give hyper local weather data. We are working on a soil kit which is solar powered. Krishi Vignan Kendra’s issue a soil health card. We found that in three lakh hectares of soil, only around 300 samples were collected. Interestingly, we learnt that everything, including the furniture in the office is made in-house.
— Purnima Sriram