IIT Bombay students develop autonomous submersible

Students of IIT Bombay have been working on an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) since December 2011, says a report. The autonomous submarine isn’t ready yet, but shows promise.

Quartz reported on the progress of the project and states that a team of 30 undergraduate students is working on the AUV. The students have apparently spent many a late night and most of their weekends on the project.

The AUV is called Matsya, which is named after Vishnu’s fish avatar. It’s completely autonomous in that it uses onboard sensors to determine the best course of action in a given situation. Matsya’s sensors include a camera that can recognise the shape and colour of an object.

Its capabilities have been enhanced to include the ability to launch torpedoes, place markers, grab objects and more.

For underwater use, an autonomous vehicle is essential because radio waves do not propagate very well in salt water, which is conductive. Traditional submarines themselves can only receive ultra-low frequency (ULF) or extremely low frequency (ELF) transmissions under certain conditions when submerged. Even in these cases, specially constructed radio stations are needed to transmit the signal.

Not surprisingly, the Naval Research Board (NRB) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have expressed interest in the project and have given the students a little under Rs 30 lakh in 2013.

These funds are not enough, however. The students require in excess of Rs 25 lakh this year alone and have only raised about Rs 15 lakh from various government sources. The DRDO and NRB funding is running low as well.

As Quartz points out, the team has been very successful, winning awards at RoboSub over the years and bagging second place in RoboSub 2016. They’ve also won multiple awards in India.

Private sponsors are still hard to come by, apparently.

The team is currently in talks with the Indira foundation to map the Ganga river’s dolphin population.

For more information and to express your support, head to IIT Bombay’s AUV page.

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