Science & Technology

IIT Jodhpur Researchers Create Prototype of Hybrid Vehicle that Moves in Land, Air, and Water

With the increasing popularity of hybrid UAVs, researchers have attempted to create an indigenous product that can be applied to rescue efforts and can map oil spills

JODHPUR, 14th March 2024Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur researchers have developed a robust control system and design for a hybrid unmanned aerial-underwater vehicle. Hybrid vehicles that can operate both on land and in water, are essential for tasks like mapping oil spills on beaches, rivers, or underwater erosion and pollution dispersion. By developing a sound mathematical system that drives these vehicles, this research will help make them more capable and efficient, and better applicable to their functions such as lifeguard rescue efforts, and even underwater and aerial photography. 

The team has developed this system by taking inspiration from a species of bird Anhingas that are both able to move on land and underwater. Based on this, the research team has created a 3D-printed prototype made of various components and waterproofing.  The prototype has been tested for aerial, water surface, and underwater maneuvering using Remote Control (RC) transmission.

The paper highlighting this work was authored by Dr. Jayant Kumar Mohanta and his research scholar Mr. Jay Khatri from IIT Jodhpur, Prof. Sandeep Gupta from IIT Kanpur, and Prof. Santhakumar Mohan from IIT Palakkad and was presented at AIR '23: Proceedings of the 2023 6th International Conference on Advances in Robotics. (DOI:

Dr. Jayant Kumar Mohanta, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT, Jodhpur explains, “This prototype can sail like a ship on the surface, fly in the air and also navigate when it is submerged in the water. It has a flying time of 15 minutes and can stay underwater for 8 hours. Interest in this topic has been growing over the years but this technology at present is with very few countries like the USA and China. We wanted to develop our indigenous product.”

So far this prototype with the algorithm proposed by the IIT Jodhpur team, is capable of performing six manoeuvres for smooth transitions between water and air in the context of uncertainty. These are: (1) Dive from Air to Underwater, (2) Take off from Underwater to Air, (3) Landing from Air to Water Surface, (4) Dive from Water Surface to Underwater, (5) Surfacing from Underwater, and (6) Take off from Water Surface.

In general, there are certain differences between the mathematical model of the system and the real system. The controller should handle these uncertainties in the system’s parameters, which is what the researchers have worked on. 

Discussing the durability of this mechanism, Dr. Jayant Kumar Mohanta, IIT Jodhpur, adds, “To make sure that it does not falter, the researchers proposed a robust backstepping control so that the robot can move freely even in the face of obstacles and disturbance, and ensures stability. Tests show that this backstepping control performs even better during times of uncertainty making this a powerfully built structure.”

To make the robot work autonomously is a great task, and hence, for that, the team has done mathematical modelling and simulation exercises. Keeping the complexity in mind, the prototype is assumed to have a quadrotor configuration, a type of helicopter with four rotors. The top layer will be responsible for moving about in the air while the bottom layer of the quadrotor, equipped with aqua propellers, is responsible for underwater movement. 

So far, these tests have been done as simulations but the team hopes to take this product out into the world for outdoor testing. They plan to construct a final prototype with more buoyancy functions in the water, to gradually introduce it into the real-world environment. 




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