‘Eye in the Sky’ for disaster relief and aid developed by IIT Madras

Students develop AI-based solution for disaster relief operation, utilizing drones with swarm intelligence for collecting data and analyzing it in real-time.

By Author  |  Published: 9th Oct 2019  3:21 pmUpdated: 9th Oct 2019  3:23 pm

Hyderabad: Students of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras developed an ‘Eye in the Sky’ Disaster Management and Humanitarian Aid Services. These drones enabled with artificial intelligence and computer vision provide an end-to-end solution for identifying acurate and critical information on people trappe in disaster hit areas and communicate the information to relief and rescue teams.

What makes ‘Eye in the Sky’ unique is that its analytical modules are based on the latest available technology with the team creating their own databases for some of the modules. Occluded people detection and Swarm Intelligence Modules are entirely state-of-the-art and work is based on the experience of past data on disaster management.

The ‘Eye in the Sky’ Team won the finals of Indian Innovation Growth Programme (IIGP 2.0) University Challenge held at IIT Bombay recently. They were among ‘Top 18 Innovative Startups’ from all over the nation and will receive Rs. 10 lakh-worth equity-less funding. The team has also received ‘Microsoft AI For Earth’ Grant given to only 390 projects globally.

The India Innovation Growth Programme (IIGP) 2.0 is a unique tripartite initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt of India, American global defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corporation and Tata Trusts. A total of 843 teams from various Universities and Startups participated of which 40 were shortlisted for the ‘DownSelect’ event at IIT Bombay.

Highlighting the technical innovation behind this project, Lt. Gen. (retd) P.R. Shankar, Faculty Advisor of the Team, and Professor of Practice, Department of Aerospace Engineering, IIT Madras, said, “The eye in the sky is an innovation based on futuristic disruptive technologies. It will be a powerful tool for saving lives and providing succour during disaster relief and humanitarian aid operations.”

Further, Prof Shankar said, “With further marginal development it can be extensively used in surveillance operations. The innovation is platform agnostic and has immense value. It is not without reason that Microsoft and Lockheed Martin have recognised this effort. The innovation team is working with NDMA and Armed Forces to develop and deploy indigenous technologies for totally Indian solutions to Indian problems. I sincerely wish this team all success.”

Air Force and Army readily respond to the needs of the affected community in all possible ways. ‘Eye in the Sky’ can also help them to conduct an efficient aerial survey, to help provide food and water supplies and other medical and safety aids to marooned and trapped populations. It can also help them to rebuild a collapsed communication channel and can provide navigation support.

The Team plans to collaborate with hardware companies that can provide scalable drone technology to conduct the required spot surveillance of disaster struck areas. Large technology corporations that work with organizations like United Nations that conduct disaster relief operations also have mutual gains from collaboration besides NGOs that specialize in disaster relief operations are also potential collaborators.

Speaking about the project, Mr. Ayush Parasbhai Maniar, Student Member, UAVs For Disaster Management, CFI-IIT Madras, said, “We propose to use a team of drones which can scan the entire disaster-affected region in just a few minutes , analyze, and provide critical data that could potentially save lives. The final aim of our startup is to make end-to-end drone software solutions which can be used by any Disaster Response Force of the world and thus help in saving thousands of lives.”

Role of Local relief task forces and NGOs remains crucial in all phases of disaster management. The ‘Eye in the Sky’ can help them in documenting the findings of the assessments, identify available resources and capabilities and provide the information to the disaster administration to overcome vulnerabilities and address risks. After experimentation and working with data provided by National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the team has identified the technologies and software frameworks to be used.

Some of the Advanced and Innovative Technologies that team has worked on as part of this project would include: Deep Learning for Highly Accurate Person Detection; Person Detection from High Altitude – Detects people from very high altitudes and takes count of number of people seen and marks density of people on map and sends to authorities; Low Altitude Person Detection – Detects people from low altitudes and takes count of number of people seen and marks density of people on map and reports it to authorities; Consciousness Detection – Detecting whether a person is able to move or not.

And signalling the rescuers around him if no motion (probability of him being unconscious) is detected; Occluded Person Detection – Detection of people buried under the debris where only a part of the body is visible to the outside world. (Not the entire body); Autonomous Mission Execution by Drone; Swarm Intelligence for Maximal Area Coverage in Minimum time; and Made highly optimized path planning algorithms for a swarm of drones which can enable to cover maximum area in minimum time. The team that developed the Eye in the Sky team included Ayush Parasbhai Maniar, Rajat Vikas Singhal, Nachiket Dev and Irfaan Arif.

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