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Unblinking eye in the sky

Author: Kumar Chellappan
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: September 18, 2012
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/home/online-channel/360-todays-newspaper/95211-unblinking-eye-in-the-sky-.html

Move over extremists, terrorists and anti-social activists. Dhaksha, born in the Madras Institute of Technology, Chennai could spell doom. The power and the mighty in Tamil Nadu are on the run from the probing eyes of Dhaksha, a mini un-manned aerial vehicle (UAV), conceived and develop-ed by the Department of Aerodynamics, MIT.

 Dhaksha bagged the top honors in the third round of the UAVForge, a global competition held by the elite Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic (SSC Atlantic), to find out a non-predator UAV model for deploying in regions of low intensity conflict. “Our task was to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle with a civilian face to track areas that do not have a military outlook,” informed a member of Team MIT, which designed Dhaksha.

 The crab-like contraption can fly to an altitude of 500 metres and scan areas within a radius of 5 km, according to K Senthil Kumar, assistant professor, Department of Aerodynamics.

 Dhaksha could be used for monitoring construction sites, traffic and in detecting vision-based obstacles. Heads of institutions can deploy it in their campuses for detecting movements happening in the 360° region.

 The highlight of the instrument is its use as a surveillance and reconnaissance vehicle in regions where military forces cannot be deployed. “It fulfils the duties of a civilian nature. The instrument can be used to detect people and objects otherwise inaccessible to police or paramilitary forces,” said another team member.

 When Madurai district collector Anshul Mishra came across accolades won by Team MIT, he asked them to help in the investigation of the rampant illegal quarrying of granites in Madurai district. Nobody could complain since the Dhaksha had a civilian face even though its eyes resemble a commando who never misses a murmur. Dhaksha detected not only illegal quarries but also granites stored in underground silos.

Since the instrument can go up to only an altitude of 500 metres, civil authorities themselves could deploy it for monitoring and surveillance. Who knows, Dhaksha just might be put to use to flush out extremists holed up in forests and the red corridors of the country.
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