It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a flying robot! If you have never seen such a machine before, you may soon notice one whiz above you. Students of IIT Kharagpur and those of other well-known engineering colleges will now learn the art (or, should we say, science) of making radio-controlled birds.
The biggest attraction of Kshitij' 07, the annual 4-day techno-management fest of IIT-Kharagpur that is starting from February 1, is a workshop on ornithopters — flapping-wing flying robots, the latest in man’s unending fascination with artificial flight, and one of the hottest topics in aerodynamic research.
“The concept of ornithopters is very new in India. People here do not yet have much knowledge about the technology. If we can learn it, we will be able to do more advanced-level research,” said Sourav Khurana, an IIT-Kgp student.
"Robotics forms a vital part of the fest and draws a enormous participation. But this is the first time that students will be learning to make a flying robot."
The idea of constructing wings in imitation of birds goes back to 1490, when Leonardo Da Vinci began studying birds to imitate their flight. He is even credited with having devised a small flying machine, something which experts say was a precursor to the modern helicopter.
Since ornithopters resemble flying birds, they are currently used extensively for studying the behaviour of migratory birds. They could even have a crucial role to play in gathering military intelligence — even spying in enemy territory.
And since ornithopters operate by flapping wings, they offer potential advantages in manoeuvrability and energy conservation, as compared with fixed-wing aircraft.
“This radio-controlled machine can be very complicated and can have mulitiple applications loaded on it. It can record audio and could also carry an in-built camera,” said Khurana.
“Some of us want to learn it to simply taste the fun of flying the robot or persuing it as a hobby. But there are other students who have serious goals with it.”
US expert Nathan Chronister will be conducting the workshop in three sages. There will be a flying demonstration of ornithopters in the open, followed by a presentation on the technical design aspects of ornithopters, at the end of which there will be a test, on the basis of which 50 participants will be selected to attend the workshop.
In the third stage, a hands-on workshop will be held, where selected participants will be given kits to make rubber band-powered ornithopters.
With a budget of Rs 65 lakh, Kshitij’07 would see participation from 12,500 registered engineering students from all over the country. This year, Kshitij will also play host to around 35 technical and managerial events followed by several managerial events. Workshops will also be held on cyber law, Six Sigma and the Right to Information (RTI) Act by Ramon Magsaysay winner Arvind Kejriwal.
Guest lectures will be delivered by luminaries such as Rakesh Sharma, Alyque Padamsee, Dr K Kasturirangan, Nobel Laureates Dr Harold Kroto and Dr Lee Hartwell, living cyborg Prof Kevin Warwick and explorer Eric Larsen.