WHS student cultivates skill with drones for farming project

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WHS student cultivates skill with drones for farming project
Rishab Nair, left and Ansh Hiranandani of Westborough High School earned an honorable mention at the Worcester Regional Science and Engineering Fair in 2023. (Photo/Courtesy)

WESTBOROUGH – Ansh Hiranandani has been into drones since he was in seventh grade.

Now a junior at Westborough High School, Hiranandani wanted to do more with drones than just fly them and take photos. He found that “more” through the Raah Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the less fortunate in India.

“My aunt knew people at the foundation” and helped make the connection, he said.

“It is not a big foundation, but they really help the impoverished,” said Preeti Hiranandani, Ansh’s mother.

In the summer of 2021, Hiranandani was visiting family in the Mumbai region.

“Mumbai is such a big city, but step outside, and there’s a lot of rural area,” he said.

Blogging about the project, Hiranandani described some of the challenges facing farmers in this region.

“During my travels in India, especially in regions like Mokhada, Maharashtra, I had the privilege of engaging with farmers on a personal level. Throughout our interactions, their resilience in the face of adversity was both inspiring and heart-wrenching,” said Hiranandani. “The struggles they face are multifaceted – from unpredictable weather conditions and water scarcity to the challenge of identifying cultivable land for efficient farming.”

That’s where Hiranandani and his drone come in. As part of a field team from the foundation, he would record images on the drone, and then submit those images to the foundation, which uses artificial intelligence to help identify potential farmland.

WHS student cultivates skill with drones for farming project
Through the Raah Foundation, Westborough High School junior Ansh Hiranandani is helping local farmers near Mumbai, India, locate more arable land. (Photo/Courtesy)

“Recognizing the reliance of many existing agricultural technology solutions on developers rather than empowering farmers, Ansh decided to create a drone technology specifically tailored to directly assist farmers. This technology, unlike others on the market, would place control in the hands of the farmers themselves,” said Ankita Luharia, senior vice president for the Raah Foundation.

“He developed a drone technology capable of assessing soil parameters, locating water sources and more. This innovation proved immensely beneficial, particularly for our indigenous farmers working on undulating terrain. It not only aided those on flat land, but also supported those struggling to cultivate two seasonal crops in such challenging conditions.”

His agricultural drone project earned Hiranandani and classmate Rishab Nair an honorable mention at the Worcester Regional Science and Engineering Fair in 2023.

Hiranandani has used his drone skills in other parts of the world as well. While on vacation with his family in Iceland, he recorded a video of a volcanic eruption.

He is currently working on a project with California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to use drones to detect wildfires sooner.

“We can use drones to determine if fires are present” and help prevent those fires from spreading, he said.

Closer to home, Hiranandani has been flying his drone taking videos for the high school.

Some of his material will be posted on the school’s new website once it comes online.

Hiranandani plans to major in aerospace engineering – and continue his work with drones — when he gets into college.

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