In June 2010, a water tanker bound for a factory at Ambalapara, near Palachuvadu, hurtled off a narrow road into an abandoned, water-logged quarry. There was no mechanism to fathom the depth of the water column, filled with hyacinths and thick undergrowth, which delayed rescue efforts considerably.

In the crowd that gathered on the rims of the quarry to watch the rescue operation on the second day, were two young scientists of the Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL), a Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) Lab, located at nearby Thrikkakara. Their director, S. Ananatha Narayanan, had suggested that they go to the site to see what was going on.

One of the scientists, Sameer Abdul Azeez, also the convener of the defence lab’s ‘creativity and innovation cell’, came back wondering if he could tweak some defence technology to develop a spin-off product that would aid rescue operations in water bodies.

Two years later, the lab has been able to cut out one. Tarangini, as the device is named, is an underwater depth and bottom hardness indicator that gives the user a fair idea of the depth and nature of bottom surface of a water body.

Mr. Azeez was working on an airborne (dunking) sonar system project when the Palachuvadu accident took place. Along with colleague Eldho Jacob, he moulded the technology in a scaled down manner, tapping resources from the lab’s technology incubation cell to fashion the instrument.

Tarangini has its industrial prototype developed, tested and calibrated at various water bodies. A market-ready version is under development with Kaynes technology, Mysore. The National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, was roped in to do the ‘product styling’. The lab intends to launch it through the Accelerated Technology Acquisition and Commercialisation programme, a joint initiative of the DRDO and FICCI.

For Anantha Narayanan, like the Sanjeevani acoustic life detector earlier developed by the laboratory, Tarangini is a key instrument, which will be of use to rescuers as well as paramilitary forces operating in insurgency-hit jungles. “The device will come in handy when they are to cross unfamiliar water bodies,” he said.

Small wonder, after a presentation on the instrument was made at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad recently, enquiries are pouring in from police about its availability. As the co-architect of the device, Mr. Azeez points to its ease of use, as it can be recharged with a mobile charger. “It has ambient and inherent lightning, suitable for round-the-clock use, and a depth ceiling of 100 ft (30 metre) beyond which men cannot go without diving gears,” he says.

The market version of Tarangini is expected to be launch-ready in a month’s time.

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