IIT Madras forges ahead in ocean engineering and maritime technology
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IIT Madras forges ahead in ocean engineering and maritime technology

IIT Madras has established a Centre of Excellence (CoE) dedicated to advancing indigenous maritime technology and expertise. The team of researchers leading this initiative has been actively engaged in notable maritime projects across India, resulting in substantial financial savings for the country through the substitution of foreign expertise and technology.

The ambition is to make this CoE a global hub in the maritime sector and generate significant cost savings for India by developing not only the technology but also trained manpower to replace foreign expertise in the Indian maritime sector. The centre is poised to develop technologies with far-reaching effects on offshore and coastal engineering, green shipping, future port infrastructure and offshore renewable energy, among other areas. It will soon begin hosting startups in related fields, with plans underway to secure funding for upcoming projects.

Wavemakers

Established through funding from the Institute of Eminence, an initiative by the government of India to promote top-tier research, the centre is overseen by faculty members from the Department of Ocean Engineering at IIT Madras. A notable achievement of the CoE is the innovation and creation of ‘wavemakers’, designed to offer precise control in testing marine structures prior to field installation. Recently, researchers at the Discovery Campus, the satellite campus of IIT Madras, successfully developed 152 entirely indigenous wavemakers at a total expenditure of nearly US$1 million. In contrast, an imported counterpart would have incurred a minimum cost of US$5.5 million. This cost-effective technology, compared to imported wavemakers, is now poised for export to other nations.

Niche areas of prototype testing

Already developed is a next-generation, cost-effective smartphone-based ‘e-Navigation’ for inland water transport. The team is working towards developing an independent and robust navigation and communication system through the establishment of an indigenous satellite-based automatic identification system (SatAIS) through the launch of a few AIS Cubesats, to reduce the subscription cost for SatAIS-based real-time vessel tracking, fleet management and maritime surveillance. A world-class facility at IIT Madras in the field of ocean engineering is the vision. Through this centre, they are venturing into niche areas of prototype testing for coastal and port engineering applications, development of marine autonomous vehicles for survey, surveillance and transportation, and the application of AI and ML to marine fields. All of these are essential ingredients to build a healthy blue economy for India.

The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) is located in Chennai, which was formerly known as Madras. (Image courtesy: Shutterstock)
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