Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kalam unleashes his dreams in aerospace

Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam today unleashed an array of dreams in aeronautics and aerospace indsutry at the L.M.Katre memorial lecture he gave at the HAL here under the aegis of Aeronutical Society of India. He said robotics carried out by the scientists and engineers of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg for land and moon applications which has proved beyond doubt that India could greatly benefit from the 'empowered Human resources and a wide array infrastructure created for the purpose.

Dr. Kalam said  "While I was in Carnegie Mellon University, I came to know about the development of Boss – A Robotic car developed by Carnegie Mellon University. This car won the 2007 Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA) Urban Challenge first place price of $2 million in the autonomous vehicle competition held in November 2007. This is the first time that autonomous (driverless) vehicles traversed suburban roads at speed with real traffic represented by 50 moving cars with human drivers and the 11 race finalists in robot-on-robot competition. The autonomous vehicles in the DARPA Urban Challenge were required to navigate, park, and handle traffic on a 60-mile urban course within a six-hour time limit. The vehicles operated without human guidance and relied only on sensors and computers. The robotic cars also had to obey traffic laws, merge into moving traffic, avoid obstacles, and negotiate intersections. The robotic technology is indeed taking shape and we may see in this decade Robotic Cars in many parts of the world".

He said he also visited and interacted with the Carnegie Mellon - Google Lunar X Prize team, who are developing a robot which will land on the Moon, travel at least 500 meter on the lunar surface and transmit images to Earth by 2012 with the intent of winning a $20 million challenge announced by the X Prize Foundation and Google Inc. This will be the first private off-planet exploration. The result of this experiment will pave the way more robotic landing in Mars and Moon for exploration.

Both these developments give me the confidence that the world is not far off from realizing pilot-less combat aircraft and reusable missile systems. With this introduction let us study the aviation profile.

Aviation History

Human flight is nothing but creativity of human mind and it come after several struggles to achieve excellence. In 1892, a great well-known scientist Lord Kelvin, who was the President of Royal Society of London said, “any thing heavier than air cannot fly, and cannot be flown." In 1903, Wright Brothers demonstrated that man could fly.

Since then, we can see how creative minds have enabled the blossoming of Indian aviation. How that vision of aeronautics can take a real shape now? LCA has been successfully flight tested and is going to production phase. ALH is in production and is entering the export market. Advanced Satellite Launch Vehicles such as PSLV and GSLV are being made in the country. Strategic missiles with re-entry technology and supersonic cruise missiles are operational.

Aerospace Today

India during the last 40 years has progressed tremendously in space, missiles and multiple aircraft programmes. From the successful launching of SLV-3 in July 1980, India steadily progressed to operational capabilities with PSLV and GSLV for Remote Sensing and Communication satellites. India is self-reliant in space technology and can offer competitive launch service. The fruit of space research has started reaching the people enabling development of the nation.

In the missile programme, Prithvi and Agni are operational. The emergence of BRAHMOS – an Indo-Russian joint venture Supersonic Cruise Missile is a break-through to obtain a unique capability for long-range precision strike. The missile programme has given strength to the nation and BrahMos has demonstrated its world leadership and the availability for export. NAL flight-tested the 14 seater SARAS and HAL has successfully productionized the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). The ALH is a unique multi-role, state-of-the-art, cost effective helicopter and will be a workhorse of the Indian aviation in the coming years. DRDO’s Lakshya and Nishant are unmanned aerial vehicles and are in production. Su-30 MKI’s avionics and MiG series of aircraft upgradation have demonstrated nation’s capabilities to design advanced aircraft systems. India has achieved core competencies in the design and development capability of aeronautical systems such as military aircraft and helicopters as well as aerospace systems such as launch vehicles and satellites. This all round capability of design and development of airborne systems is an adequate foundation for us to build on to develop our own 150 seater passenger jet.

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