Hello everyone and welcome back to a fresh new episode of the Cognixia podcast. Every week, we bring you a new opportunity to learn something new and inspire you to take the next big leap in your career by sharing some new tidbits of information from the world of emerging digital technologies.
This week, we delve deeper into the world of sensors. Actually, one particular smart sensor, to be precise. But before that, let us give you some context about why we want to talk about these sensors.
If you have been keeping up with the news, you would be aware of the ongoing crisis in Sudan. A deadly power struggle erupted in Sudan in mid-April, between the military factions after the transition to a civilian-led government faltered. Intense clashes are occurring between Sudan’s military and its main paramilitary forces, which have so far killed hundreds of people while thousands are trying to flee the country, running away from a burgeoning civil war that threatens to destabilize the wider region including and around Sudan. That is more or less the gist of what is happening, but to understand more about why all the fighting is taking place and why it is of so much significance, we recommend you catch up on the news.
Now, to rescue the Indians stranded in Sudan, India launched Operation Kaveri, where India sends out flights to the country to rescue as many Indians as possible and bring them back to India. So far quite a lot of people have been brought back home and the Indian Air Force is undoubtedly doing a brilliant job in commanding and executing these rescue missions.
In one such very daring operation, a C-130J heavy-lift aircraft, flown by the Indian Air Force rescued 121 people from a tiny airstrip in Wadi Sayyidna, located about 40km north of the badly violence-hit capital city of Sudan – Khartoum. The operation took place on the intervening night between 27 and 28 April 2023. This operation was carried out especially to rescue people who are unable to reach Port Sudan, which is currently the key exit point from where India is rescuing its people from Sudan.
But we have been carrying out rescue missions all the time. We rescued people when the Russia-Ukraine war broke out, we rescued people from Afghanistan when the Taliban took over, and now we are once again rescuing people from Sudan. So, what makes this particular flight in this particular operation special?
Now, the Wadi Sayyidna airstrip has a degraded surface with no navigational aid or fuel available for the pilots flying the aircraft to help them land, or even take off for that matter. The airstrip also has no landing lights, which as you can understand, is super essential for landing the aircraft at night. Despite this obvious handicap, the Indian Air Force landed the flight on this tiny airstrip, rescued the 121 people, flew back, and brought all of them to India safely. This is not an episode about how great the work that the Indian Air Force is doing, we are already in awe, and we do salute their spirit and efforts. However, we would like to draw attention to something they used to make this landing possible. No prizes for guessing – we are talking about the sensors on the planes.
The IAF pilots used their electro-optical sensors and infrared sensors to ensure that the runway was free of any obstruction and there were no inimical elements present in the vicinity of the runway so that the plane could be landed safely. The night was particularly dark, and the Air Force commandos used the good old night-vision goggles to see clearly into the dark and then land the aircraft. The engines for the plane were kept running for the entire duration on the ground, during which the commandos helped board the people and their luggage into the plane. After that, same landing time, the pilots used night-vision goggles to take off again.
The entire operation took roughly two and a half hours. The sheer audacity as well as the flawless execution of the entire operation will undoubtedly go down in the annals of the history of the Indian Air Force. This operation, in case you’re familiar, might sound very similar to the rescue operation that was carried out in Kabul not so long ago.
Now, coming back to the sensors, we want to talk about the electro-optical sensors. Electro-optical sensors convert light into electronic signals. These electro-optical sensors will detect any electromagnetic radiation all the way from infrared to ultraviolet wavelengths. These sensors are not just present on the Indian Air Force planes but they also find applications in a wide range of products and industries. So, if you know about or have seen or used lights that automatically turn on in response to darkness, they use electro-optical sensors. You know those cartoons where the characters get cut or burnt or something when they are trying to cross a passage where there are many light beams crisscrossing around? When the light beam gets interrupted, a position sensor goes off. Those sensors are also fueled by an electro-optical sensor. When there is a need to synchronize one photographic flash to another, it is again these electro-optical sensors to the rescue. When one needs to detect the distance, presence, or absence of an object, once again, we look to electro-optical sensors for help. Going down to simpler and more relatable examples, does your phone have an adaptive brightness option where the phone automatically pushes the brightness up or down depending on the ambient lighting? To make that happen, your phone has an electro-optical sensor in it that detects the brightness of the light around it, converts it to a signal which your phone processor reads, and adjusts the screen brightness of your phone accordingly. Ever wondered how your smartwatch can measure your heartbeat? Once again, it is possible because of electro-optical sensors.
Just about every structure that monitors structures that generate, produce, distribute, and convert electrical power will have electro-optical sensors present on them. Pipeline monitoring in the oil & gas industry is also done using electro-optical sensors. Wind turbine blades are also monitored using electro-optical sensors. Bridges, airport landing strips, dams, railways, airplanes, wings, fuel tanks, ship hulls, etc. are all monitored using electro-optical sensors. The concentration of substances in mixtures in visible and infrared spectroscopy is also measured using electro-optical sensors.
One important thing to mention here is that these sensors are usually powdered by cutting-edge technologies like the Internet of Things for detecting data and generating signals, cloud computing to store, compute, and manage the data generated, DevOps to build platforms and interfaces for working with the sensors, and many others. Such state-of-the-art sensors would not and cannot be dependent on or fueled by just one single technology, it totally takes a village to run them. So, we would say, knowledge of more than one technology is definitely super helpful and will hold you in good stead when it comes to moving ahead in your career.
So, you now have some idea of what are electro-optical sensors, how they operate, what they are used for, the technologies that power them, and why they are so important for everyone. And with that, we come to the end of this week’s episode of the Cognixia podcast. Meanwhile, if you would like to check out our live online instructor-led courses in the latest and most popular emerging digital technologies, do visit our website www.cognixia.com. You can also get all your queries answered there in the chat function available on our website.
We would like to end this episode by once again thanking the Indian Air Force for the amazing feats they achieve, beyond anyone’s imagination, and their dedication to the country. We salute the spirit and the bravery of the Indian Air Force, and we sincerely hope the situation in Sudan resolves soon.
Until next week then.