IIT-Kanpur helps Navy ships ‘talk’ to eye-in-the-sky choppers
Shiv AroorPosted online: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 at 0000 hrs Print EmailRussian communication system expensive, so IIT ‘incubation’ team builds one that passes with flying colours on board INS Viraat
NEW DELHI, JUNE 27: In an effort to extricate itself from the prohibitively high costs of equipment in the international arms market, the Navy has begun to look within. And not without success.
Following a report on May 11 last year in The Indian Express about a team of young IIT-Kanpur graduates making a mark in the country’s guided missile programme, Naval Headquarters hired the services of the same group to fix a fundamental flaw in how warships “talk” to helicopters.
The team recently went on board aircraft carrier INS Viraat and proved equal to the challenge.
The Navy’s fleet of Kamov-31 airborne early warning (AEW) helicopters, one of its prime force multipliers, cannot effectively operate off all Naval warships — apart from the three Talwar-class stealth frigates — because of the absence of a crucial but expensive Russian navigational computer called the Elman system.
The IIT graduates, part of an incubation outfit at IIT-Kanpur called Whirlybird Electronics, were invited on board INS Viraat during the Indo-French Naval exercise Varuna in March. The team then put to the test its equipment, called NELM (an inside joke for “Not-Elman”), or technically as shipborne inertial aligment & transfer unit.
Of 15 communication tests conducted between the aircraft carrier and a Kamov-31 helicopter, NELM passed 14. The error was described as a “planned error of limits.”
Now the Naval project manager, Cdr C Raghuram, has asked the IIT team led by aerospace engineering graduate Bhrah Dutt Awasthi to fine-tune their device and bring it back in four months.
“The project was initiated by the Navy chief’s scientific advisor B Lalmohan in coordination with the Weapons & Electronic System Engineering Establishment (WESEE), and is now in progress,” a Naval spokesperson said. A helicopter on a ship does not have independent means to read the ship’s own course and other parameters and requires this vital link at all times, in order to perform as a sophisticated early warning system.
“We have created a clone of the Elman through 100 per cent back-computing and reverse engineering. In four months, we will take back a fully operational product for further testing,” Awasthi told The Indian Express from Kanpur. The Navy soon wants to use early-warning helicopters to be used across the fleet