Robotics Application: Search and Rescue in Forest made easier by autonomous drone

Looking for people either lost or hiding in a forest is extremely difficult and time consuming due to the density of vegetation as well as the tree cover.
By: HyperCharge Technology
RAMAT GAN, Israel - July 13, 2021 - PRLog -- Using a plane or a helicopter is also a challenge because the canopy limits the vision on the ground, where people may be walking on or even laying down.

Heat sensors are also affected as the same problem exists for thermal applications – they cannot see through the canopy properly.

Researchers continue to make efforts to develop a drone that can be used for search-and-rescue operations in the forest, however, it is being limited by the fact that it has to be controlled by pilots. These problems were addressed by the research team working in Johannes Kelper University.

This team of researchers focused on finding opportunities to help and improve search-and-rescue efforts and they've successfully developed an autonomous drone that has the ability to get past the canopy. In their research paper that was published in Science Robotics, they discussed the drone modifications that takes advantage of a new technology developed by the team.

They call it airborne optical sectioning algorithm which technically uses a computer to detect and defocus occluding objects such as top of trees. After the image is defocused, the second part of the invention uses thermal imaging to highlight and determine warm bodies on the picture. It goes to the next part which is a machine-learning application to determine if the heat signals are from animals, humans, or other sources.

This hardware is then connected to a standard autonomous drone, which uses locational positioning to determine where to search and it also reacts to the results of AOS as well as the thermal sensor.

Now if the program determines that the heat signature is a match for humans, the drove is programmed to further investigate and move closer to confirm. Once confirmed, it sends a signal to the research team with the coordinates. Several test runs were conducted on different fields, with the drone being able to locate at least 38 out of 42 people that went to hide in the forest.

It is expected that this drone will further be enhanced to later join search and rescue missions over heavily forested areas.

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