Ocean Eyes develops visual navigation system for use at sea

A team of aeronautical engineering students from Emirates Aviation University has set its sights on improving safety in the shipping industry.

With an ingenious design, the team has set out to build a drone that can be launched from any vessel and used to give its captain and crew a clear look at what’s in the waters nearby. With the region’s busy shipping industry in mind they had to design a drone that could withstand the tough conditions experienced at sea, including high winds.

“We built the drone from scratch,” explained Jaidev Sanketi, one of the team, which also includes Sundus Awan, Rishika Kasliwal and Srinivasa Raghavan Ramanujam. “What we’ve done is not just one single drone because you need a lot of stability. We’ve built a platform that lets four quadcopters work together, giving better stability and working as one drone.”

The drone can take a payload of up to 1kg and can be fitted with different cameras to suit the prevailing conditions. This means a ship’s crew can quickly launch and operate the drone, getting a live visual feed of the surrounding waters straight to the bridge. This additional information can be used to supplement a vessel’s usual positioning and navigation systems, or as an emergency back up. It will also be applicable in pirate prone areas, difficult to dock ports, and rocky or coral seas, or areas populated by marine animals.

“We talked to ship engineers and captains and they all said ‘yes’ this was definitely a system they could have on board to help,” said Sanketi.

The unique design is also leading to another opportunity for innovation, with the team investigating ways the drone can carry its own lightweight solar panel, to boost power and extend the flight time.