DRDO meet stresses on the economy of condition monitoring

The country can save thousands of crores of rupees each year by developing sensors and instruments for continuous upkeep of fighter aircraft, ships, submarines and other defence and civil assets, top defence scientists said here on Friday.

Regretting that the country lags in tapping a tool of economy and national security, K. Tamilmani, DRDO’s Director-General (Aero), told a two-day national conference on condition monitoring that commercial airlines such as Jet Airways achieve over 99 per cent use of their aircraft by keeping constant tabs by the condition monitoring technique. Conventional methods used in the country give 60 per cent usability of some Indian military fleet, sometimes leaving about 100 fighters unavailable at a time.

Highlighting that suitable sensors should be developed in the country, Dr. Tamilmani said if users applied condition monitoring (CM) to all the 290 Sukhoi-30s — which cost Rs. 400 crore apiece — and raised their availability to 70 per cent, the armed forces can get a few hundred crores’ worth on them. Dr. Tamilmani also heads the military airworthiness agency, CEMILAC.

V. Bhujanga Rao, DRDO’s DG (naval systems), said a ready market worth Rs. 750 crore exists for sensors, instruments and signal processing data used for CM, most of which are imported.

Dr. Rao, who is the founder-president of the ten-year-old Condition Monitoring Society of India (CMSI), Visakhapatnam, cautioned that upcoming defence projects such as the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft and the Futuristic Main Battle Tank warrant much research in the area.

Industries also need to invest on the lines of Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Meggitt plc, which have each invested 1 million pounds over five years in Cranfield University’s CM centre, he said.

Recent studies estimate that condition-based monitoring can save the steel industry Rs. 10,000 crore a year by averting surprise shutdowns; and save the power sector 2 MW each day by cutting production, transmission and distribution losses. Sadly, the CMSI’s plan to start a distance PG diploma in Andhra University had not taken off due to poor student response. “The time has come for all maintenance engineers to be aware of CM” which belongs to all branches, Dr. Rao cautioned.

The DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment here and the CMSI are hosting the conference.

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