New Drones Could Locate And Rescue Lost Hikers

Posted: Feb 11 2016, 2:57am CST | by , Updated: Feb 11 2016, 3:03am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
New Drones Can Help Locate and Rescue Lost Hikers
Drone is recognizing and following forest trails. Credit: UZH; USI; SUPSI

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Using powerful artificial intelligence alogrithms, new drones can autonomously detect and follow forest paths.

Every year, thousands of people lose their way in forests or mountain regions worldwide. For instance, emergency centers receive around 1,000 calls annually from injured or lost hikers in Switzerland alone and asked them to take them back to their homes.

Now, Swiss researchers have found a better way to rescue missing hikers. They have developed drones with specialized vision systems that can autonomously detect and follow paths in forests and locate and rescue missing people more easily and rapidly.

The best thing about these new drones is that they are not remote controlled and can fly through forests without hitting trees or any other object which is a big challenge for conventional drones.

“While drones flying at high altitudes are already being used commercially, drones cannot yet fly autonomously in complex environments, such as dense forests. In these environments, any little error may result in a crash and robots need a powerful brain in order to make sense of the complex world around them.” Prof. Davide Scaramuzza from the University of Zurich said.

These drones observe the environment through a pair of small cameras and they rely on powerful artificial intelligence algorithms for searching people instead of sensors. These algorithms help flying robots interpret and recognize man-made trails, which is sometimes difficult even for humans.

The artificial intelligence algorithms help drones learn and solve complex tasks similar to the way a human brain learns from experiences. For preparing these algorithms, researchers hiked and snapped different trials in Swiss Alps. Then, they incorporated these thousands of images into algorithms. When tested, algorithms were able to find correct direction with 85% accuracy while humans guessed correctly 82%.

These drones are inexpensive so swarms of them can be sent to ensure rapid access to missing people and also to share the work load of rescue teams. Currently, researchers are working on to improve these drones as they want to make sure that there are no loopholes left when first fleet will start working parallel to search and rescue teams.

“Many technological issues must be overcome before the most ambitious applications can become a reality,” said Professor Luca Maria Gambardella, director of the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

“But small flying robots are incredibly versatile and the field is advancing at an unseen pace. One day robots will work side by side with human rescuers to make our lives safer.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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