Autonomous Air Boats (A2B) for the Indian Armed Forces!
An Alpha Defense Exclusive
-Admin Alpha Mariner
Finally! India seems to be directing her focus on autonomous systems. Autonomous Air Boats (A2B)! Unlike conventional boats where the propeller is operated in sea water, A2B has a propeller that works in air less than a few metres above the mean sea level. Such boats are typically used in shallow water conditions and in swampy areas. A2Bs are intended for logistic support tasks. Let’s take a look into what’s onboard this boat which is designed by R&D establishment, Dighe.
Material and Construction
A2Bs are lightweight constructed and uses marine grade aluminium to achieve this. The hull is flat bottom and is around 5.5 m in length with a beam of 2.1 m. The height of the boat is 0.6 m at the aft and 0.9 m at the bow. This hull has monocoque construction with chimes at the bottom. The hull will be double walled and utilises a ribbed structure to provide rigidity. The frames will be spaced every half meter and sheets used will be chequered plates of 4 mm thickness, square tubes of 3 mm thickness and C-channels which will be 4 mm thick. The space between the two decks shall house a petrol tank of 50 litres capacity.
A2B will be able to carry 450 kgs of weight in addition to the engine weight. For boat stability, the metacentre must always be above the center of gravity (15 cms for initial GM atleast as per IMO). The bottom hulls will be provided with a bilge pump so as to pump out the ingressed water incase of accidental flooding. The chimes provided at the bottom of the hull helps in stability.
The propulsion used could probably be Chevy Small – Block V-8 or equivalent which has displacement around 6000 cc with maximum RPM around 5000 to 5200. The propeller radius is 2 m which enables it to achieve speeds of upto 12 knots at full load. A rigid mount is used for the engine. The engine is mounted at the aft wiht the propeller facing outwards followed by aerofoil rudders. A pedal acceleration system is used for manual operations of the engine. The rudders are controlled through linkages with a hand held rod attached.
The communication mast used in A2B shall be made of stainless steel hollow tube and it will incorporate ergonomics into design. This mast shall house a marine grade GPS, both main link and emergency link for the communication. This mast shall also have a pan-tilt platform that can help improve all round visibility. The pan-tilt camera will be remotely controlled. The communication hardware might comprise of a main module and an emergency link. The main module will operate on a high bandwidth whereas the emergency link on a low bandwidth.
In addition to the GPS, an INS as well as IMU shall be present to monitor the traversed path. Other payloads can be fuel, weapons, medical supplies etc.
A2Bs make use of Drive by Wire tecnology. They shall come with optional crew manning. For the autonomous mode, there will be an auto pilot controller module which will be pre-programmed with way-points defining the route to be followed. The auto controller will also control the throttle as well as the steering. Other modules present in A2B include
- Motion Controller Module
– The feedback on motion is received from the motion sensors and control signals provided to achieve desired actuation.
- Navigation Controller Module
– GPS along with grid conversion capabilities
- Vision Systems Module
– Controls the camera output and sends it back to ground control station
- Autonomous Motion Planner Module
– Real time motion control
- Communication Controller Module
– Commands from ground control stations are queued and scheduled
- Supervisor Module
– Kept for safe recovery of the system into a stable state
- Manual Override Module
– For overriding certain systems during manual operation
Relevance of A2B
The idea behind A2Bs is to provide for light optionally manned logistical support boats at reduced power needs. Such boats minimize the utilisation of personnel for such logistical tasks and facilitate far better resource allocation. Use of aluminium for such small boats help in better optimization of boat lightweight.
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