Deccan Chronicle March 24, 2014
A team of 15 students from SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University) has come out with an 'autonomous weather monitoring copter,' a multi-rotor aerial vehicle that will help study weather. According to the students, the copter can be used as an alternative to weather balloons that are released at several places in the counrty to measure temperature, pressure and humidity various altitudes in the atmosphere.
"Balloons have been our reasonable source of weather data for a very long time. The copter is a technological development and the students are trying to use it for a research project. When the copter can reach its destined 2km height, then it would be crucial for planetary boundary layer study," said Dr, Y.E.A. Raj, deputy director general of meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC), chennai. In Chennai, the weather office in Meenambakkam releases the hydrogen filled balloon, fitted with radiosonde, a battery-powered instrument, twice in the morning and likewise in the evening for collecting data on wind and direction.
Prof. D. Nararyana Rao, director (research), SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University), Kattankulathur, told Deccan Chronicle that the team planned to try flying the copter in May or June this year to check its potential. "We want to compare the data given by the balloon and the measurements made by the copter," he said. The research team also needs to take the permission of the Airports Authority of India to fly the copter above 200 m.
The students were upbeat about their initial success in flying the copter on Monday. " When we tried it the first time last month, it crashed due to signal loss. Now, we have upgraded the batteries and it is working well," said team leader G. Sathappan, a third year aerospace engineering student.
Another team leader, J. Sathyanarayanan, said the copter could replace balloons in the future for collecting weather data. "We spent INR 2 lakh - our university funded us - to build this copter. A balloon is much cheaper as its only valuable component is the imported radiosonde that costs INR 10,000. But the copter can be reused, the balloon cannot," he added.