A view of underwater robot Mike'.
Chennai: Corrosion and marine organisms often pose a threat to port structures and so Chennai Port Trust recently employed the indigenous underwater robot ‘Mike’. The robot was developed by students and faculty of IIT Madras will help to know the structural integrity and safety of the underwater structures at the port.
‘Mike’ surveyed the remote corners of Chennai Port for three days and took images of the underwater structures and their present condition. Based on the findings, Planys Technologies, a startup at IIT Madras, submitted a report to the port authorities regarding the safety and stability of structures and corrective action that needs to be taken if it has to withstand another catastrophe like a tsunami.
There are no remotely operated vehicles available in the country at present to study the underwater structures at ports and dams. They often use divers who will conduct a visual inspection of the structures and boats with sonar technology are being used to study the stability of underwater structures.
"We have recommended them to take some corrective actions as needed. If it is done in a timely manner, it would be helpful in case of natural calamities," Prabhu Rajagopal, associate professor, IIT Madras and director, Planys Technologies, said.
The underwater robot has a camera, pressure sensor, depth sensor and sensors for temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity to measure the values. It can go up to 100 metres depth in the sea.
"We have international players providing large remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) at the size of the container. This one can be carried by one or two people. The scope for structural assessment of ports is the huge. Every port has one or two areas would like to inspect where divers cannot go and the international ROVs are too expensive," Rajagopal said.
When asked whether this vehicle can be used for search and rescue operations he said, "It is designed for shallow waters in the coastal region. But, we do have the capability to build vehicles which can do a search and rescue kind of operations."
The team in Planys technologies also provided the structural survey of the three submerged terminals at Vishakapatnam port.
It is learnt these findings are currently being examined by the Chennai Port Trust authorities to take corrective measures. "Chennai Port Trust wanted to find out the integrity of some port structures at the depth of 10-15 metres. After surveying the port, we had made some findings which couldn’t have been found otherwise," Prabhu Rajagopal said.