View from India: Real-time applications explored at NI Days 2017

Pilots get accurate visibility of airport runways. Solar energy solutions become more efficient. These are some of the industry applications that can be leveraged from the expansive ecosystem that National Instruments (NI) offers. Besides increasing productivity, many of these applications help reduce time to market.

Accuracy at airport runways

Accuracy and visibility are crucial to the smooth and safe functioning of airport runways. A high-tech indigenous system envisioned as Drishti Transmissometer provides a solution for smooth operations at airport runways. This Make in India product has been created by National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) which is a constituent of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India, and is the only civilian aerospace research and development (R&D) laboratory in India.  

Technically, Drishti is a representative condition of the airport runway for pilots. Simply put, it is a fast, rugged measurement system that gives accurate visibility for pilots to land and takeoff even in harsh weather conditions. Drishti uses a novel light-intensity modulation technique with synchronous demodulation detection. The data acquisition at the field site is in field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) embedded platform with computation of visibility using Drishti Runway Visual Range (RVR) software in industry standard LabView environment. LabView is the flagship product of National Instruments.

Physics forms the basis of Drishti, upon which it has been developed as a multi-engineering device that combines elements of electronics, computer science, software and mechanical engineering.

“NAL is the first organisation in India to develop such a product. It has been certified by Airport Authority of India (AAI) and the India Meteorological Department (IMD), which is responsible for navigation services at the airports,” said Dr Shubha V, chief scientist, Airport Instrumentation, NAL, speaking at the 14th edition of the NI Days 2017, held in Bangalore. Previously, IMD had imported relatively expensive spare parts in case of a breakdown of instruments that provide visibility data. Drishti is one-fifth the cost of imported systems; it is already present in 11 international airports and will soon be deployed in all airports in the country.

Solar power research

As energy is a key contributor to climate change, institutions are investing in research in order to create affordable, scalable, energy-efficient solutions. Research in energy is interdisciplinary in nature and it’s no surprise that the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) initiated the Interdisciplinary Centre for Energy Research (ICER) in 2012 in order to address the research challenges in diverse fields related to energy, such as concentrating solar power, next-generation solar photovoltaic, high storage density battery, green buildings, sustainable technologies, combustion science and technology. 

Some major projects which have been initiated by ICER include the India-US consortium named Solar Energy Research Institute for India and the United States (SERIIUS) under the US-India Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center (JCERDC) programme, the National Centre for Combustion Research & Development (NCCRD) and the Research Centre for Solar Power in IISc’s Challakere Campus for development of research test beds in solar thermal as well as in photovoltaics.

“In SERIIUS, we are working on a photovoltaic module, for which we wanted a modular solution and efficiency in terms of power generation. We chose CompactRIO, NI’s hardware, which is a robust control system. The CompactRIO algorithm has a real-time controller which helps in time-critical control of energy flow and usage,” explained Prof. Pramod Kumar, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

Planet NI Academy

Ajay Kumar Garg Engineering College (AKGEC), Ghaziabad along with National Instruments (India) has set up the AKGEC-NI LabVIEW Academy for Educational Institutions at AKGEC, Ghaziabad. This Academy is an initiative of NI under their Planet NI (Nurturing Innovation) framework which strives to increase the employability of Indian engineering graduates by creating a ‘Centre of Excellence’ in engineering colleges and universities which will provide cost-effective access to world-class latest technology through classroom teaching-learning.

There are some interesting projects undertaken at the Academy. Like the design and development of optical character recognition (OCR) system for license plates using LabVIEW and Machine Vision. The application recognises the license plates of cars at, for example, the entrance of a parking area or a border crossing. The diesel health monitoring system is another interesting project. It’s a comprehensive diagnostic tool for condition monitoring and systematic analysis of the diesel engine. It provides the basis for proactive maintenance and operational decisions based on the actual machinery condition.

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