Seven years ago, many brave Indian soldiers sacrificed themselves at Kargil to protect our freedom. Our warriors, who stand along our nation's borders risking life and limb need all the help they can get. It took the ingenuity of a 23-year-old from Lucknow to figure out a way in which tech could save lives on the front line!
Our borders are some of the most treacherous places on earth, and it's hard to spot enemy encampments or track enemy movement; still, soldiers risk their lives trying to spy on the enemy. But what if you didn't need soldiers to do this? A robot could provide accurate reconnaissance without endangering lives...
That's exactly what Shadab Ahmad Ansari thought of when building his invention,Soldier Gear.
Soldier Gear is an espionage robot controlled using a special military suit. It has a camera and microphone on it, which is used to send information about any location. This gear is to be used in defence warfare when vital information of enemy troops' location and strength are sought. How much did it cost?
"Though the project was made out of components bought from the scrap market, it still cost me Rs 10,000. Most of the expenses were due to the trial-and-error method I had to use when making the circuits. If I had better knowledge of robotics and circuits, it would have worked out much cheaper," says Shadab.
What made him want to do it?
Shadab reminisces, "I was watching a movie based on the Kargil war. The miserable situation of Indian soldiers depicted in the movie made me want to create something to help them. Since I had already assisted a senior with his project of making a simple robot, I came up with a vague idea of making an advanced robot. I started from scratch-researching robotics on the Net."
Soldier Gear comprises a printed circuit board, gearboxes of cars, parts of remote controlled toy cars, rotors, relays, batteries of various voltages, a machine belt, a vacuum cleaner hood, rubber bands, and various other everyday items bought from the local scrap market. Shadab actually used commonly-used adhesives as well as rubber bands to hold the components together!
The espionage robot resembles an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC). Its basic task is to go out looking for enemy troops and transmit what it finds in audio-visual format, using AM signals. The robot can operate in varying terrain-land, air and water-and has an arm that mimics the function of a human arm, a camera to see with, and a microphone to record sound.
On the top, the robot has rotor wings, propeller heads and radar, the Ariel Eyeball, and the robotic arm. The base of the robot has a mine detection and deactivation circuit, and mattracks similar to those in an APC.
The Military Suit
This consists of two control units on either arm-the one on the left controls motion and the one on the right controls the robotic arm. The suit also includes LCD goggles and a headphone-mic combination.
The waist belt carries the voice recognition system, batteries, and a signal receiver. The voice recognition system acts as a security device so that only the chosen soldier can control the robot.
The Base Camp Computer
This acts as a monitoring tool for the back-end forces and higher officials. It is connected to the robot and gets all the data. It needs at least Windows 98 with Turbo C installed. In case anything goes wrong with the soldier who controls the robot, then the Base Camp Computer can control the robot as well as transfer the control from one soldier to another.
Shadab says, "It was tough for me to make the robot fly, initially. Since the entire body is quite heavy, battery consumption would be high if I had to make the robot fly. That's why I segregated the robot into an aerodynamically-flying saucer that sits atop the robot."
Another innovative feature added to the espionage robot was the ability to swim. "This wasn't as easy as it sounds. Dip an empty glass into water with the mouth of glass facing down and you will see that the inner wall of the glass stays dry. I applied the same rule for the robot", says Shadab. He modified the body of a vacuum cleaner to make the robot body, and used a large tank to test it. He added propellers (like those used in submarines) to give it thrust. It worked!
The Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) veterans Society of India awarded him a certificate and Rs 10,000 for his invention. He has already applied for a patent for his invention at the SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Centre, IIT Kanpur.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has invited him to demonstrate his invention, but for that he wants to improve his robot using better-quality parts.
The new model will feature a few more functions such as a Global Positioning System and Shadab wants to add inter-connectivity between two or more Soldier Gears, to improve co-ordination and efficiency.
When asked about future plans, Shadab says, "I've finished my B. Tech in Electronics and Communications, but have no concrete plans to go commercial. At present, I seek funds to make the next Soldier Gear better."
Well done Shadab, we wish you success!