28-year-old Sampriti Bhattacharyya, a PhD scholar from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has designed an underwater drone that can map ocean floors at places where GPS does not work. She is the founder of Hydroswarm – a startup that designs and markets small, autonomous drones for ocean exploration and maritime big data. These drones are shaped like an egg and are roughly the size of a football.
Sampriti, who hails from Kolkata, has been featured among Forbes’ top 30 most powerful young change agents of the world.
She pursued engineering from St. Thomas’ College of Engineering & Technology in Kolkata and then went to Ohio State University to study aerospace engineering. She later switched to robotics at MIT.
The absence of any easy way to study ocean floors inspired her to create an underwater robot. As of now, remotely operated autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) are used to explore the deep sea. They are deployed for missions like studying oil spills, environmental monitoring, search operations, etc. But AUVs are very costly and mission-oriented. They are not used to study the ocean on a day-to-day basis to understand the underwater environment better.
This is what Sampriti wants to change with Hydroswarm, by developing drones that can roam the oceans and collect data all the time.
“Underwater navigation has been a reality for many years but for advanced searches you need maps that are as refined as, say, the Google map. This is where my drone comes in. It can map the ocean, sitting on its bed, and you can zero in on the minutest objects, living or non-living. You can even map underwater pollution with the help of his drone,” she told The Times of India when she was in Kolkata for some time recently.
These drones can withstand the immense pressure in deep oceans, can cover up to 100 square meters in one hour, and can swim across the ocean floors mapping the topography, studying aquatic life, etc.
To commercialize her drone by starting a company, Sampriti joined a business programme at Harvard Business School. She was one of the top eight contenders to reach the finals of MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, winning $15,000.