Over the past several years drones autonomous rescue cameras equipped with cameras have been tested and used in theaters of natural disasters to detect signs of life and survivors to be rescued.
Today, in the world's first study of this type, Australian and Iraqi researchers took this feature to the next level.
Using new techniques and technologies to remotely monitor vital signs, engineers from the University of South Australia and Middle Technical University in Baghdad designed a totally new computerized vision system. A system capable of discriminating bodies that are still alive from those who have died, and it does so at a distance of about 8 meters.
How it works
By aiming at the upper part of the bodies, rescue drone cameras can detect micro movements inside the chest (even very faint) that indicate cardiac activity and breathing. The method is totally different from all the previous ones and based on changes in skin color or body temperature.
Other thermal chamber techniques can only detect signs of life if there is contrast between the body's heat and the surrounding environment. In hot scenarios, for example, they don't work well. Ditto if people in danger (or dead bodies) have insulated clothing.
Advancement obviously entails greater precision in the analysis of signs of life, and greater chances of saving people in danger.
Professor Javaan Chahl and Dr. Ali Al-Naji, head of the study, were also the first to show the potential capabilities of rescue drones two years ago to measure breath and heart rate even from a distance.
In the first tests a minimum distance was required: just three meters, beyond which the drones were unable to "read" the situation. Moreover, the worst limit was given by the fact that the observable bodies could only be positioned in front of the drone, not lying down.
'This cardiopulmonary movement-based study was performed on 8 subjects and an inanimate manikin, in different positions,' says Professor Chahl.
The technology can also be used in adverse weather conditions, helping first responders to bring immediate aid to victims of a disaster.
"It will be ideal in situations such as earthquakes, floods, chemical attacks or mass assaults with firearms."
More rescue drones, more lives saved
Rescue operations in areas affected by disasters currently make use of robots and dogs, expensive solutions that can operate only in limited points of the scenario.
Intelligent systems such as those under study can greatly expand the capacities of the rescuers and the chances of survival of the victims of a disaster.
Ali Al-Naji, Asanka G. Perera, Saleem Latteef Mohammed, Javaan Chahl. Life Signs Detector Using a Drone in Disaster Zones. Remote Sensing, 2019; 11 (20): 2441 DOI: 10.3390 / rs11202441