The challenge was to build all-terrain vehicles that navigate natural and man-made blocks.

It was quite a challenge for young minds to showcase future unmanned all-terrain vehicles.

For three days, 13 teams from engineering colleges across the country showcased their robotic skills by building autonomous off-road unmanned ground vehicles, navigating through rough terrain avoiding natural and man-made obstacles in the shortest time.

At the national-level robotic competition held at Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi, organised by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), five teams bagged the prize money of Rs. 60,000 each.

IIT-Madras, IIT-Bombay, MIT-Chennai, Thappar University, Patiala and ISM, Dhanbad were awarded the top prizes by a panel of judges from DRDO, industries and academia who had more than two decades o rich experience in the domain of robotics.

“It was an autonomous, all terrain vehicle. We were able to guide our vehicle through sand, gravel, make it climb stairs,” says Brij Bhushan, an IIT-Madras student. Except for the corrugated surface, as the actual track was different from the specifications given before the event, the IIT-M vehicle performed admirably to impress the judges.

SRM University, Chennai, bagged the award for innovation; IIT-Kharagpur for kinematics and engineering design and Malaviya National Institute, Jaipur for algorithm. The prize money for each category was Rs 25,000.

As the teams had only three months to prepare and the track was advanced, the robotic vehicles had difficulty in navigating through the terrain and the last event had to be conducted indoors.

“Our prototype was much more realistic. It was built on two scales and it was not a scaled-down version,” said Rahul Das, a mechanical engineering student at IIT-Kharagpur.

The three types of wheels ensure that the vehicle is able to use a different wheel for climbing steps or navigating through sand. His team comprised of three electrical engineering students and one aerospace and electronics student each. And the team's inspiration came from the `Landmaster' from a 1960s Hollywood movie.

Unmanned vehicles is an exciting field for innovation and research as it involves kinematics, precision engineering, embedded systems and sensors needed for intelligence systems, said S. Sundaresh, Chief Controller, R&D, DRDO.

“The objective is to attract a large pool of young minds to the DRDO and tap ideas for the Indian Armed forces.”