Most boys his age would be happy with a bike. A car would be a dream. ButSubhanjan Saha owns a drone. Better still, the 21-year-old ‘technopreneur’ has built it himself and claims to have outdone similar campus innovations inspired by Joy Lobo’s flying spy camera in ‘3 Idiots’.
Saha’s drone is the product of an ingenious mind and India’s trademark jugad technology. Built with scrap metal, pieces of plastic and cheap Chinese-made contraptions, it packs enough power to fly 10km at a stretch at a height between 5,000-10,000 feet, take clear ground photographs with a high-resolution camera and instantly relay them back to its operator. Saha has also equipped it with “bomb-dropping” and “rocket-launching” abilities, though he admits they are essentially rudimentary and he needs expert guidance as well as access to superior technology to make his prototype effective.
The third-year computer science student at Manindra Chandra Collegehas written to the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) for help and funds. If he can develop it to the level he desires, Saha believes the drone will be good enough to be used by the Army for surveillance and security operations, especially along the turbulent borders with Pakistan and China.
Saha’s manufacturing cost for the drone was Rs 90,000. An NGO, Prantakatha, and Abhijit Mukherjee of the SN Bose Centre for Basic Sciences are helping him keep his dream alive. “We have sent a proposal to the department of science and technology outlining his project. Once we receive a response, we shall appeal to the government to explore the possibilities of the spycam being used by the defence forces,” said Bappaditya Mukherjee of Prantakatha.
The desire to design a drone was kindled in Saha after the trauma of seeing his uncle, a BSF officer, killed by infiltrators in Kargil. “The jawans were being fired at from a greater height and they couldn’t gauge the source of the bullets. If they had a flying spy camera, they could have located the enemy and fought back. My uncle’s death inspired me to try and create an instrument that could be used in such situations. It has been my passion ever since I was a class V student,” he says.
But, a weaver’s son, he didn’t have the means to fund his plan, though the desire remained strong. The first breakthrough came while he was still in school when he managed to put together a helicopter with scrap metal, wood, plastic and hand-built circuits with help from teachers. “It wasn’t fitted with a camera and couldn’t fly for more than a few seconds. But it did take off, which was a big step for me. I knew I was on the right path,” he says.