Making his mark in Robotics - Dr Mohan Rajesh Elara

15 Aug 2021

Tamil Murasu, 15 Aug 2021, Making his mark in Robotics, Dr Rajesh 

The cleaning and sanitation industry has always been known to be an onerous industry to be working in. It can be said that to be contributing to this industry is even seen as a service to the community, especially so during these difficult times when the Covid-19 virus is rampant and the need for sanitation and cleaning services has significantly multiplied. 

Dr Mohan Rajesh Elara, 39, has been instrumental in the production of highly efficient robots for the cleaning industry.

He has been involved in robotics and artificial intelligence research for the past 16 years and is currently an Assistant Professor in the department of Engineering Product Development at the Singapore University of Technology and Design in Singapore.

Dr Rajesh currently leads a team of 50 researchers, conducting research on nearly 30 different types of robots. His team’s research on reconfigurable robots ranks at the top of the world.

“When I joined the university in 2011, we explored the various industries that would need the use of such robots. We learned that maintenance and cleaning industries required lots of manual work and locally manufactured cleaning machines would be highly valued especially since Singapore was also known for its cleanliness,” said Dr Rajesh.

With the support from National Robotics Programme, we were able to undertake cutting edge robotics research work. He also noted the Government of Singapore was very supportive of robotics research compared to many other countries in the world.

“Singapore is one of the leading countries in the field of robotics research. We have reached that level because we produce world-class designers and engineers. Another key reason is that we are able to produce our technological innovations, internationally,” said Rajesh.

Dr Rajesh is the co-founder of two companies, Oceania Robotics, which manufactures marine and pest control robots, as well as Lionsbot International, which manufactures cleaning robots.

“A lot of young engineers with passion for robotics are shifting to other fields due to the lack of robotics centered jobs in the local market. I set up these companies to attract and retain them in the industry,” said Dr Rajesh.

Rajesh's robots are operating in a number of locations, including public places such as Jewel Changi Airport, the Singapore National Art Gallery, train stations, office complexes, and Covid-19 related isolation complexes. These robots not only deployed locally, but also in about 20 countries around the world.

“Sanitation activities have been stepped up due to the pandemic. Areas which previously used to be cleaned once a day, is now needed to be cleaned several times in a day. These machines lend a hand to meet the resulting manpower shortages. It is also safer to use machines to clean the area when patients with Covid-19 are present,” added Dr Rajesh.

Dr Rajesh also commented on the fear in the society that artificial intelligence technology will take jobs away from human beings.

“Computers and the Internet can now be found in almost all organisations and businesses all over the world. Such technology is constantly changing and actively contributing to human life. Similarly, the development of artificial intelligence will only transform our jobs from one form to another while be used for the development of society in the future. For example, cleaners may soon have their jobs shift to robot operators instead of performing the actual cleaning. Their manual workload will be reduced. So while the requirements of the job may change, the opportunities to get jobs will not be removed,” said Dr Rajesh.