Indian robots grow more capable and intelligent

India’s state-owned defence establishments continue to hone existing robotic products and to create new ones, including development of three types of surveillance robots from the Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics (CAIR) that can be controlled using AI.
The largest design from CAIR, a wing of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is the Mini-UGV, a tracked robot suitable for urban rescue and surveillance tasks.
It can climb staircases, for example, and carry a 10kg payload consisting of LiDAR, monocular camera and RGB-D camera. It has a 4h endurance though its Wi-Fi link limits its range to about 200m.
Smaller is the Robot Sentry, a four-wheel robot for outdoor urban operations. It can autonomously explore and map an area with real-time feedback. It can operate for up to 4h and has a speed of 7km/h. Its onboard sensors include monocular and stereo cameras, GPS/INS plus 3D LiDAR.
The smallest robot is the Ballbot, a miniature two-wheel differential-drive robot for short-range reconnaissance. It can be dropped from up to 2m and has a 2h endurance. Interestingly, the Robot Sentry can carry two Ballbots, and release them when further investigation is required.
All three products are essentially complete in terms of development, so the focus is now on a multi-agency ground control station where up to 20 robots can be controlled simultaneously. CAIR hopes that this integration work will be completed by the end of the year. Links will also move on from Wi-Fi-based ones to permit longer ranges for these autonomous systems.
The target customer for each of these three surveillance robots is military and paramilitary forces in India.
Moving to another department of the DRDO, Alok Mukherjee, head of robotics at the Research and Development Establishment (Engineers), introduced the new Daksh Defuser, a 3t tracked vehicle for handling unexploded ordnance (pictured above). It can lift a 1t bomb and has an abrasive waterjet cutter to cut off the fuses of unexploded bombs.
Soon after DefExpo, the Indian Air Force will conduct trials with the Daksh Defuser. It is suitable for clearing bombs at an air base after an attack, for example, or for simply clearing unexploded ordnance.
Carried to location in the back of a truck, and operated from the vehicle by a crew of two (navigator and operator), the Defuser has a 1km line-of-sight range and 6h endurance.
Mukherjee said his team had developed a Mk 2 version of the Daksh Primal, of which the Indian military has been using 20 examples since 2012. The upgraded IED-handling wheeled robot has more components installed inside a protective cover to improve reliability. The DRDO is now awaiting orders, including from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
A chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNe) sensor has now been added to the six-wheeled Daksh Spotter, and four units have been built so far.
The tracked Confined Space ROV is designed to operate in train and aircraft aisles. Its six-axis manipulator arm reaches 2.5m high, enough to search overhead baggage compartments. A waterjet disruptor has now been integrated.
Indian military and paramilitary forces have done trials with this Confined Space ROV over the past two years, and it is now in the procurement process for use in counterterrorism missions. Production is delegated to manufacturing partners such as Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).
The tracked Daksh Scout for surveillance or counterterrorism missions has undergone military and paramilitary trials over the past two years as well. It can now carry a detonation charge and has a high-power camera. The CRPF sees great potential for use in jungle operations where an ambush may be laid by Naxalite insurgents.

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