Every year, Switzerland responds to about 1,000 backcountry search-and-rescue (SAR) emergencies—hikers injured in falls, thrill-seekers who’ve gone missing, campers stranded by rock slides or floods. Currently, the normal way to find people is to dispatch human teams, sometimes into dangerous parts of the Alps. This work is time-consuming; about 10,000 manpower hours are expended annually in Switzerland alone. Emergencies in other trekkers’ paradises, such as Nepal and Peru, only add to the global total.
Now, elevating operations off the ground, a team of Swiss researchers has developed an SAR drone. Aerial missions offer several obvious benefits: Drones are relatively cheap these days, several can be released simultaneously to scan different areas in short order, and they don’t place human responders in harm’s way. The newly developed device, however, isn’t like the run-of-the-mill drones saturating the commercial market. In fact, it may be smarter than the average human.
The machine’s navigation software relies on a specially designed algorithm—supported by a “deep learning” neural network that mimics the human brain—that allows the drone to process and recall visual experiences. By having the robot digest about 20,000 images of trails in the Alps, the researchers trained it to recognize signs of both official and man-made paths—say, beaten dirt or softened grass—as well as their trajectories. In practical terms, this means the drone, which has two camera lenses, can spot and then autonomously steer itself along routes that missing people may have followed or even blazed themselves. The research team found that the device has an 85 percent accuracy rate in identifying trails—3 percent higher than humans trying to do the same on foot.
The next phase is teaching the drone—still a prototype—to recognize faces. With different software (not yet developed), the device could learn to distinguish human features in images, alert responders to individuals’ precise locations, and possibly even describe what condition they are in. The drone, in other words, will be able to do all the searching in emergencies. Humans will only have to swoop in for the rescue. To read more click here.
The latest in SAR innovations and technology will be discussed at the 2016 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference (ANZSAR); Land, Sea & Air will be held at the Jupiters Hotel, Gold Coast on the 1 June 2016.
CLICK HERE to view the Conference Program with an impressive line up of keynote speakers and targeted forums it makes this the premier conference to attend in the Oceania region.
To register for the conference CLICK HERE
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