People in the vibrant city of Shanghai have felt the heat waves this summer, but for Concordia students, the “heat” is passion.
Over the summer break, Shreyas S. and Marcus C. (Class of ’25), members of student-led drone club “Phoenix Squadron”, worked around the clock under the guidance of high school math teacher Dr. Peter Tong, to embark on a complex research project of bringing true autonomy to aerial platforms. The journey was one filled with rigorous disciplined work, and the students ended the summer having accomplished a goal that they could only dream of when they founded Phoenix Squadron.
The duo developed a fully autonomous drone capable of industrial-grade inspections. Named Prokyon, it is equipped with an advanced path-planning algorithm adapted to aerial platforms, which allows the drone to not only detect obstacles on the path, but also autonomously move around the obstacle to continue its inspection of pipelines. It also carries a suite of sensors, which are fully modular and can be replaced task to task.
To put the prototype into real-life application, the young innovators showcased it to Henkel (the world’s largest adhesives manufacturer), which was then reviewed, as well as critiqued at the company’s Dragon Plant for chemical pipeline inspections. After taking their corporate mentors’ advice, the two drone-builders managed to produce real world efficacy of the prototype.
The sleek self-operating drone system enables a UAV to follow and track a pipeline while providing timely critical insights about the functioning and efficiency to operators managing the pipeline ensuring smooth operations. “Revolutionizing the system, Prokyon mitigates costs while enhancing operating efficiency and ensuring flawlessly safety mechanisms… The platform’s modularity and expansion capabilities are most noteworthy, and the team's vision of modular, intelligent, and applicable UAV inspection systems is quite relevant yielding transformational value to current industry practice,” says Dr. Rajat Agarwal, President Henkel Greater China, in a letter of recommendation.
Hear what our students have to say!
The constant process of revisions and new ideas was both a fruitful and testing experience that tested our problem-solving and resourcefulness as we constantly debugged and improved Project Prokyon. We came away from this project with a lot of newfound skills such as rapid software development and virtual testing, allowing us to more efficiently improve Project Prokyon. --Marcus C.
Project Prokyon was our first time developing an industrial-grade project. It required us to work with a different mindset, prioritizing its application & usage, and most importantly, safety... We're very grateful for all the support we have received from Dr. Tong. Throughout the summer, the 3 of us worked on developing a working prototype and having a tangible product. --Shreyas S.
Marcus and Shreyas have been putting countless hours of dedicated and passionate hard work in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) since they were in middle school. Their labor of passion in drones and aerospace in creating the Phoenix Squadron has attracted industrial collaboration.
“Watching students flourishing and propelling their passion and enthusiasm beyond the exosphere, and witnessing students applying what they learn and putting their ideas and creativity into building practical applications is the most exciting part,” says Dr. Tong, mentor of the club.
In addition to the actual development of Prokyon, Marcus, Shreyas, and Dr. Peter Tong are currently working on a research paper which takes a deep technological dive into math, computations, ROS (Robot Operating System), and programming that is behind Prokyon.
This article is partly contributed by Concordia student-led club Phoenix Squadron