THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: What started as a routine project of a group of BTech students of Government Engineering College, Barton Hill (GECBH), Thiruvananthapuram, has given birth to a technology that offers huge opportunities in a variety of underwater operations. The mechanism to explore the depths of water bodies using drones and to use it for missions including rescue and reconnaissance, won them a patent from the Government of India recently.
Extending the range of operation of underwater drones was a challenge that piqued the interest of the student team comprising of Reuben Mathew Shibu, Abhinav Ajith, Ramesh M and Rahul Rajkumar.
With the support of their mentor and GECBH faculty Anish K John, they developed the technology and applied for patent in 2018. Interestingly, the students, who passed out in 2021, won the patent after overcoming the challenges of similarly patented technologies developed by the US Defence Department and American aerospace firm Lockheed Martin.
While Reuben is currently exploring the commercial possibilities of the patented underwater drone technology, others in the team are doing their masters programmes in various universities. Reuben’s startup Underwater Drone Technologies Pvt Ltd is engaged in the advancement of underwater drone systems, featuring patented innovations.
“Our focus is on enhancing the communication range of a Remotely Operated Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (ROV), which falls under the category of underwater drones. This is achieved by employing a third-party unmanned vehicle to establish a wireless bridge for communication between the operator/user and the underwater ROV,” Reuben explained.
Compared to standard underwater drones, the horizontal operational range of the new system can be extended by 10 times. It also allows users to control the drones from remote locations, eliminating the need for physical presence on-site. This enhances operational flexibility and also reduces costs associated with on-site personnel.
Reuben’s startup has devised an action plan to come up with the full-fledged product for the market using the patented technology in a span of two years with an estimated cost of Rs 4 crore. The startup is hopeful of roping in investors as the global underwater drone market size is projected to reach 15.4 billion US dollars in 2031 from 4.17 USD at present.