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Successful Landing: DRDO, Agra
At the end of a carefree and relaxed first year, it was finally time to think about getting an internship. But, however important landing an internship is in our minds, the laziness to fight for one overwhelms it, and we almost always end up uploading our resumes at the last minute of the last day. There was hardly any activity in the core aero profiles in the autumn semester, but the situation changed dramatically with the onset of the spring semester. There were a string of opportunities for us in the core field now.
Amidst all this hustle, I got selected for DRDO Agra, also known as ADRDE (Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment) . DRDO is one of the most sought-after research platforms for core aerospace enthusiasts, and I was happy to get it. As far as the selection is considered, it was heavily dependent on the resume. I was excited to get involved in one of the “Top Secret” labs of the country to explore where exactly we stood amongst our competitors when it comes to our impenetrable and glorious defense. I wanted to grasp just how much we Aerospace engineers contribute to our society.
Deployment at the Internship
There we were, on the first day of the internship, in the city of the Taj Mahal, passing by a life-size tank, making our way through the entrances of ADRDE. We had to leave behind all electronic equipments, (mobile, laptops, pen drives, etc.) at the gate, to ensure absolutely no leakage of the highly covert data of the organization as demanded by them. Obviously, we had our own human memory and an internet connection inside, but let’s keep that aside for now. The environment was serene and lush with greenery which made it the perfect atmosphere to focus. We were introduced to our guides and the department where we were supposed to work. As a matter of fact, almost all of our guides were IITians, and quite young too. There was absolutely no delay in getting straight to the point. We were given a variety of topics that could be of use to them, and it was totally up to us to choose which aspect of the project we’d be interested in working. I certainly agree that 3rd year students had a greater pool to choose from, as compared to us sophomores, but then I’d rather make most use of my time here than complain.
The organization DRDO is spread out across the country performing various tasks, each specialized in a particular field. DRDO Agra specializes in aerial development. Till now, its primary area of focus had been developing highest grade parachutes deployed during reentry of spacecrafts and the ones used by soldiers for skydiving. Work involves going through fabric research, drag maximization while reentry into the orbit and stabilizing the system and so on. Their most recent effort had been of creating an Aerostat, which was successfully achieved. Leaping a few steps forward: currently they are working on an Airship, for the first time in India. On completion of project “Airship”, we would be among the only few nations of the world who have accomplished this feat, putting us at par with countries like USA, China, Germany, France and Japan. THIS is the project for which we were chosen to work on.
Does this ring a bell? Mangalyaan, remember? It looks like we have made it a habit to be among the elites. Being interested in core, the idea of working on such a project captivated my heart with immense pleasure. The work here captures everything from Structural Designing and Analysis to CFD, Engines and Controls. We do a lot of literature surveys and gather whatever highly sheltered knowledge we can find. The work culture here is really friendly; simply put, it feels like you are working in a tech-team of IIT with the seniors who have a great deal of knowledge to offer you. We can approach any scientist without any hesitation, and it is almost guaranteed that you wouldn’t be disappointed, doesn’t matter whether they are ranked B, C, or D. And yes, these alphabets represent the seniority levels of the scientists.
Now, remember folks, this is Agra, the abode of Akbar’s Fatehpur Sikri and Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal, ranked highest amongst the great seven wonders of the world, but still the city is not as glamorous and pompous as it gives a feeling of, or at least that’s what I think. The ‘summer’ of my summer intern really hurts a lot. During the day the city temperatures soar as high as 45-46 degrees. As of now, when on one side, Mumbai is literally drowning, on the other, there hasn’t been even a drop of relief in Agra yet. As if the heat was not enough, we were not even provided any accommodation or stipend. Added to this, living in a completely new city on your own, without any accommodation provided and with the number of PGs available near ADRDE being very scarce; the situation can push your buttons.
Now, for what’s really important – food! We miss our insti’s food and canteens. Seriously. The government food provided in the DRDO campus is horrible. We can’t leave the campus till evening, once we enter in the morning, so eating outside is also not an option. As far as the rest of city is concerned, there are quite a few well-managed food outlets, but always, always, always remember to ask the size of the serving; you either receive too less or too much.
It is not out of the ordinary in government institutions for people to misuse the freedom provided to them. Sometimes we feel that, we interns are the ones toiling harder than “some” of the employees. Some government employees often take their freedom to a whole new level, by choosing to do next to nothing. Punctuality is a myth here; no one believes in it.
There is a burning issue of lack of proper infrastructure which no one can deny. These scientists don’t have access to internet on their PCs. Yes, you heard it right – No Freakin’ Internet! This was done in order to prevent anyone from hacking their system. They have intranets, however. They also have common PCs in each department with access to internet. Originally, all five of us interns, were supposed to work on the same single PC of our department, though later on, we managed to acquire other PCs with some help. The rule of not being allowed to take information in and out of the campus, makes it difficult to do any work in our rooms. Later, though, they themselves granted us the freedom to come whenever we wished and report to them.
Takeoff, journey and beyond
As far as the work profile is concerned, it is definitely fascinating and innovative, and there is a lot to learn. The youngsters here are full of energy and knowledge, and so are the seniors. What is required is a new source of motivation for the seniors, as it is quite natural that in thriving to achieve new knowledge every day, one is bound to face many obstacles and difficulties, which can sometimes drain one’s motivation. Also, a much needed upgradation of the workplace is necessary to keep up with the world, and retain its status as a pioneer of the nation in defense R&D. This is a phase of transition, and visionaries are needed.
The end of the intern is nearing at a much more accelerated pace than with what it had begun, and little did I then expect this place to become like a home for me.
For those looking to work at DRDO, I’ll say, “Your journey and experience shall be an enlightening and a memorable one, just as mine was.”.