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Indian DRDO scientist gets award for work on avalanches

Dr Ratnakar N Sarwade, a scientist with Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), India recently received the “Scientist of the Year” award for his work in the organisation’s Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), which aims to help the army reduce the number of deaths and accidents due to avalanches.

With most security deployments being along the Line of Control and the Himalayan range, avalanches are constant threat.

“The security forces face a lot of avalanches and other high-altitude problems particularly in winter,” Sarwade told DNA.

Sarwade’s team developed an avalanche forecasting technique using a remote sensing device. “We have earth-receiving stations from which we get satellite imagery online that detail the snow-covered area and which help us measure and forecast possible avalanches,” said Sarwade.

This scheme has been implemented in last five years in the western Himalayan area of Jammu and Kashmir. “These predictions are very accurate and the army depends on it for their operations,” said Sarwade.

Sarwade and his team used data from DRDO’s 48 observatories and 45 Automatic Weather Stations in developing the avalanche-forecasting technique.

“We use the MM5, a resource scale weather-forecasting model which tells us about the precipitation in these areas. MM5 gives us data on the volume of snow, altitude, and catchment areas, based on which we make our forecasts,” said Sarwade
Born in Beed, Maharashtra, Sarwade did his Mechanical Engineering from Warangal and worked with Tata Motors for five years. He then went on to do doctorate research in Electro-Chemical Micro Machining in Warsaw.

After returning to India, he joined IIT Bombay and later, the DRDO. Through the DRDO Sarwade went to Antartica and did research work on climate changes there. He was later transferred to DRDO in Delhi from where he went took on the current project.