C-DAC's "Indus Copter": the local drone and its history

C-DAC’s “Indus Copter”: the local drone and its history

The Advanced Computing Development Center (C-DAC) of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is the main research and development organization in the fields of computing, electronics and related fields. The organization currently works in the areas of exascale computing, quantum computing, IoT and blockchain, as well as several others.

C-DAC recently launched its own drone, industry helicopter, developed on an in-house board, Indus IoT. C-DAC says the drone can help find infected regions in agricultural fields, check the health of lakes or even check air quality at different levels. Learn more, Analytics India Magazine contacted C-DAC.

AIM: What is the difference between Indus IoT and other boards available on the market?

When looking at the differences between the current board we offer and boards available in the market with similar functionality, the main difference is how we support sensor interfaces.

When you look at other products in the market, if you need to embed a sensor on this board, you need to stack another board that has the sensor on it. On the other hand, Indus IoT comes with six sensors which we offer at the competitive price that the market usually offers in other boards without all these sensors on board. So that’s the major USP that our card comes with.

AIM: How was the drone conceptualized?

In October 2021, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship visited C-DAC facilities in Bangalore and launched our card Indus IoT during this period.

At launch, he suggested that why not make this board a drone controller. Acting on the suggestion, we started working on the drone. Keeping Indus IoT as our controller, we started researching potential applications that traditional drone developers at the time weren’t considering.

As a result, we came across the quality of the water distributed in the lakes as well as the agricultural fields affected by the infections. There were no apps to separate these types of lakes or fields, so we started working on a drone with those apps in mind.

PURPOSE: The drone has USB 2.0 instead of USB 3.0 or USB Type C, why?

We need to understand that for any drone or piece of equipment, there will be multiple use cases at the same time. We shouldn’t use it just because the technology is available. It is based on costs and supply chain requirements.

While our system comes under micro drones, the application platform does not change. As we also want to make it a development platform for people to learn drone applications, it should also be as cost-effective as possible for people to experiment.

The bandwidth requirement comes in when we transmit the video through the drone, which we have taken care of. All data can be transmitted wirelessly via Bluetooth. USB is only required when the drone needs an upgrade, and therefore USB 2.0 is ideal for our purposes.

AIM: AI in drones is a core technology, why doesn’t Indus Copter have it?

You are right, AI is a very important part of the drone ecosystem these days. We have a model coming in a few months that will have AI capability on board.

We are also working on two approaches, one is a kind of edge computing at the drone level and then we have a dedicated server for other processing. So it’s kind of like two computers working together in sync to better understand real-time data. This is all happening very quickly and we are also in discussion with a professor from IIT who is working in this area.

AIM: You are also working on Blockchain elections, what is stopping you from implementing it?

It is not just voting but the whole process that needs to be innovated, for example securing the entry of candidates to the polls, or verifying their identity. The blockchain will only ensure integrity is maintained and there is no question of any erroneous claims or anything like that. The framework eliminates a single point of failure and inherently protects sensitive citizen and government data.

However, the execution part requires a lot of processes to be defined which must be approved by the Electoral Commission. When the administrative authorities agree on the big thing, then only he can move forward. Similar is the case of decentralized identity. The concept is revolutionary, but India has about 1.3 billion people and it depends on the administration how it does it now.

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