Foxtrot is a team based in Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIKI), which specializes in building planes, drones, and UAVs. With the passion for developing Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and the intention of representing Pakistan and GIKI internationally, the team competes in the UAS Challenge (Unmanned Aircraft Systems Challenge) which is hosted yearly in the United Kingdom (UK) by IMechE (Institution of Mechanical Engineers).
The competition is aimed at promoting technology-driven humanitarian projects by performing relief and aid missions in artificially set disastrous situations. In addition to this, our drone can be configured to perform a plethora of useful tasks. This can be done by attaching equipment to it to achieve the desired purpose. For example, it can be used for agricultural purposes: it can be used to spray pesticides on crops and can also remotely help detect if crops contain bugs or pests which may harm that year’s production etc.
Other than this, it can be modified easily to partake in day and night surveillance, in wildlife management by deploying nets to capture and protect endangered species, and using a LiDAR for density mapping of pollutant gases and obtain high resolution topography data to create digital elevation models, and develop accurate maps depicting canopy cover. It can also be used as a hazing device to deter wildlife from areas – such as an active oil spill – by installing a loudspeaker fitted with an amplifier.
The above-mentioned uses can massively impact our economy, as by using these UAVs, the government can save costs they would otherwise spend in hiring professional workers, purchasing expensive vehicles for surveillance, and employing helicopters (which also drain a lot of fuel and contribute to global warming). The agricultural use may also improve annual crop yield, and its role in wildlife management will help preserve the endangered and prized animals of Pakistan.
The team is divided into multiple sub-teams with each targeting a unique goal and observing their respective deadlines. The sub-teams are namely, Design, Fabrication, Automation Systems, Imaging Systems, Testing, Documentation, Media, Marketing and Sponsorship Team. The teams interdepend on each other which denotes the common goals among teams. They manufacture fully autonomous UAVs: meaning that their UAVs shall fly completely on their own once instructed to, without any human intervention.
The overall UAS Challenge encompasses a wide array of missions in which one of the missions is to detect alphanumeric characters and their colours while in flight. As a result of which, the team is working on AI systems, neural networks, and parallel computing. This is the only team in GIK Institute working in these domains. Team Foxtrot has developed a neural network that perfectly detects alphanumeric characters and colours during a dynamic flight. Full autonomy is achieved through mission planner software and Pixhawk, flight management unit, in stages by first carrying out calibrations including pre-flight checks.
In its debut year in 2019, Team Foxtrot clinched the “Highest New Entrant Award” and stood among the Top 10 teams, beating UK’s renowned universities while being the only foreign team among the new entrants. Staying true to these triumphs, this year, Team Foxtrot has scored a perfect 15/15 on its first Design Review, beating the other 33 teams. In fact, this feat has never previously been achieved by any team from over the globe in the history of the challenge!
These achievements have made them proud and encouraged them to push even harder. Moreover, they are strong indicators of the potential underlying in the team members. They have led us to believe that we have the required capabilities to compete with teams from across the globe. Team foxtrot STEM outreach program focuses on enabling young minds to develop UAV related cognitive skills. They have conducted sessions in different schools all across Pakistan which mainly focus on teaching students the practical applications of autonomous UAVs in the modern era. This includes them being used for humanitarian aid missions, STEM education and to encourage more young people to choose engineering as a career and allow them to take part in fun and practical engineering and aerospace.
Team Foxtrot aims to uplift the status of Pakistan internationally in the field of automation and artificial intelligence. The concept of drones can be implemented in Pakistan to revolutionize it in the following way: every year many lives are lost because of floods or earthquakes due to the unavailability of help or proper arrangements, so drones can be used in such cases to provide surveillance for rescue and drop aid packages to those in dire need. Drones can also be a source of Pakistan’s growth in the economy in terms of different aspects and decrease in traffic problems; that is, they can be used as delivery companions.
Bashir Ahmad is a medical student working as a freelance writer, graphic designer and social media manager for Pakscience, Scientia Pakistan and many other platforms. Tap on the social media links below to connect with him.