Named SAMUDRA (System for Autonomous Marine Underwater Detection and Research Activities), the project was initiated in 2010 and was undertaken by the electrical and computer science engineering students.
Himanshu Jain, a final year student who has been working on the project for nearly two years, said archaeologists have already approached the group with interest in the product.
“An important area of SAMUDRA’s application could be the underwater archeological surveys where human reach is difficult. There is a lot of pressure at a depth of 10 metres, and only an AUV can bear this,” he said.
He said at times it becomes difficult for humans to enter an area submerged in water and human presence also poses a risk to the conservation of the submerged structure.
The group claims the vehicle has been tested till a depth of 50 metres. It has a LAN cable, through which the vehicle can receive commands via a computer software designed especially for the purpose. Three cameras have been attached to the body of the AUV — at the front, top and bottom. The body is made primarily of fibre reinforced plastic, steel and aluminum.
Razi Ahmad, a second year engineering student, who also joined the project, said, “This kind of material has been used because it is lightweight and provides earthing, as it is a good conductor of electricity. A single board computer has been attached to the AUV, too.”
The students are now looking forward to modify the design of the vehicle so that it can be used for defence purposes as well. “If we modify the design — improve the coiling and the torque — it can even be fitted with torpedo launchers,” he said.
Apart from deep sea research activities and rescue operations, the group claims the AUV can be applied to a range of other functions — underwater mine surveys, ocean floor mapping, oil and natural gas explorations.
“Besides underwater archaeology, the vehicle can be used by the Navy and the Coast Guards. It also has major application in the oil and gas industries,” Jain said.
Ashok Mittal, principal of Ambedkar Institute of Technology, who had mentored the students at the initial stage of the project, said, “The vehicle can carry out multiple functions. The project was funded by NIOT, Chennai, and by our institute. The data communication was developed by the students. Because of the limited funds, normal thrusters were used instead of high-value ones. Once the high value thrusters are attached, the vehicle can cope with high pressure in oceans.”