IIT Madras develops drone algorithms to help study fire behavior in space stations and satellites

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Madras have developed algorithms for drones to help study the behavior of fire in space stations, shuttles and satellites.

According to the team, a multirotor microgravity platform can also simulate low-gravity environments similar to the Moon and Mars, thus recreating these conditions on Earth for experiments.

The team says that at present, the generation of microgravity (the perceived gravity is close to zero) is only possible via space stations, satellites, space shuttles, sounding rockets and towers. fall, which are almost all beyond the reach of most educational institutions in India.

Another option is to use free-falling flights on Earth to create microgravity. The free fall of sounding rockets and the free fall of payloads from high altitude balloons and drop towers can also enable microgravity. “, Kedarisetty Siddhardha, researcher, Department of Aerospace Engineering, told IIT Madras at PTI.

“These microgravity platforms provide stable, high-quality microgravity. However, it takes anywhere from months to years to access any of the existing microgravity platforms. Additionally, the cost of accessing services of these platforms is not affordable for many educational and research institutions, ”he added.

The team has developed an algorithm that can precisely control multirotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as quadrotors or drones. The team has published this research in reputable international peer-reviewed journals including Aerospace Systems, Aerospace Science and Technology, and Microgravity Science and Technology.

“These algorithms and techniques for controlling multirotor drones could accurately maintain its acceleration. Although multirotor drones currently do not have high payload capacities, they are readily available at low cost, making them accessible to everyone. We performed flight tests using a quadrotor and a hexrotor that we developed and found that these flights achieved stable and high quality microgravity levels, ”he said.

“The research team showed that existing quadrotors can be turned into microgravity platforms through minor design changes and appropriate control, estimation and automation algorithms. In addition, the methods and algorithms that we have developed to turn multirotors into microgravity platforms are generic, so they can be easily replicated to create multirotor microgravity platforms with high payload capacities, ”added Siddhardha.

The two multirotors the team built and flown are the first drones to perform onboard microgravity experiments. Previously, the efforts of other researchers to make UAVs as microgravity platforms were not very successful because these platforms could not reach gravity levels near zero.

“While most conventional microgravity platforms can only simulate microgravity, a multirotor microgravity platform can also simulate reduced gravity environments like that of the Moon and Mars.

“You only need to change one parameter of the software that Siddhardha integrates into his multirotor, which autonomously performs the maneuvers necessary to achieve the required level of gravity,” said Joel George Manathara, Assistant Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering, IIT Madras .

The team conducted experiments aboard its multirotor microgravity platforms to observe capillary action as well as the change in shape of the liquid meniscus into microgravity.

“These experiments prove without a doubt that multirotors can be turned into platforms on which microgravity experiments can be performed. Nowadays almost every educational institution has a robotics lab or flying club. with multirotors, so this research opens up the possibility of conducting microgravity experiments in all Indian universities, ”said Siddhardha.

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