IIT Madras Develop Disaster Relief And Humanitarian Aid

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

'Eye In The Sky' Drone Device developed by the team from CFI-IIT Madras.
Image generated by the Drone developed by 'Eye in the Sky' Team, CFI - IIT Madras.
Images generated by the Drone developed by 'Eye in the Sky' Team, CFI - IIT Madras.

IIT Madras students develop an ‘Eye in the Sky’ Disaster Management and Humanitarian Aid Services. A team from Centre For Innovation (CFI), IIT Madras, is building drones enabled with Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision to develop an end-to-end solution for identifying accurate and critical information on people trapped in disaster-hit areas and communicate them to the relief task force.

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 the 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 the 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.”

“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,” he added.

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 the 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, 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.”

“Our analytical modules are based on the latest available technology. We’ve also gone to the extent of creating our own databases for some of the modules,” he added.

The 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 the 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:

1. Deep Learning for Highly Accurate Person Detection

a. Person Detection from High Altitude: Detects people from very high altitudes and takes count of number of people seen and marks the density of people on a map and sends to authorities.

b. Low Altitude Person Detection: Detects people from low altitudes and takes count of number of people seen and marks the density of people on a map and reports it to authorities

c. 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.

d. 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)

2. Autonomous Mission Execution by Drone

3. Swarm Intelligence for Maximal Area Coverage in Minimum time

4. Made highly optimized path planning algorithms for a swarm of drones which can enable to cover a maximum area in minimum time.



Year and Dept

Ayush Parasbhai Maniar

3rd Year, Electrical Engineering

Rajat Vikas Singhal

3rd Year, Computer Science & Engineering

Nachiket Dev

2nd Year, Mechanical Engineering

Irfaan Arif

2nd Year, Mechanical Engineering

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