DJI Documents Faster Search And Rescue Responses With Drones

DJI, the world’s leading maker of unmanned aerial vehicles, saidThursday that early search and rescue tests have found that a properly-equipped drone can find a missing person in a one-square-kilometer area within 20 minutes, more than 80 percent faster than traditional methods, but new software developments will be key to putting that lifesaving potential into action.

DJI Director of Education Romeo Durscher discussed those preliminary findings in a presentation at the InterDrone conference in Las Vegas. In conjunction with the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), DJI’s research with Ireland’s Donegal Mountain Search and Rescue found that while a five-person rescue team needs two hours on average to find a victim in one square kilometer, a drone can not only find that victim in 20 minutes, but can take additional active steps to achieve a successful rescue.

“As we study the search and rescue process, we realize that finding a victim in rough terrain is just the first part of the process,” Durscher said. “A drone also must be able to transmit images and GPS coordinates to other searchers and commanders as part of a coordinated software solution, deliver small rescue payloads to a victim, and serve as a beacon to guide rescuers to the right spot. Drones are already being used to save lives around the world, but we believe working with experienced emergency responders is the right way to develop a strategic approach that will maximize their capabilities.”

DJI is developing controlled test methodologies to continue collecting rigorous data on how drones can save lives in firefighting, search and rescue and other forms of emergency response, as well as better protect search and rescue personnel. DJI and the research and development firm Black Channel recently led a field study of drone rescue technology in extreme altitudes and weather conditions on the Adamello Glacier in Italy’s Dolomite mountains.

“I do think that the drones can improve search techniques,” said Joe Eyerman, Co-Director of Black Channel, which is dedicated to applying scientific methods to the evaluation of unmanned aircraft to medical missions including search and rescue, emergency response and data collection. “If we can resolve some of the minor challenges we had on this study, we would be able to give them to members of the search community right away and they could begin making the mountains a safer place.”

This is the first project to use scientific methods to assess the value of drones to support expert search teams in extreme conditions. Combining the unique perspectives of scientists, drone operators and veteran mountaineers, it aims to assess new technologies and refine how DJI can contribute to global search and rescue procedures – while also enlisting local students to help with the research effort.

“We are helping the next generation become tomorrow’s leaders in safe mountaineering and first response,” said Durscher. “Enabling them to develop proper drone technology integration for the safety of thousands of visitors to the mountain range each year allows them to stay and work in their local community.”

The project used the DroneDeploy application and included:

  • Taking images from the drones and creating mosaic maps for search and rescue teams to select search trajectories and prioritize possible victim locations.
  • Mapping to identify changes in environmental conditions that may increase risk to the search teams including heavily forested mountain areas.
  • Training local youth and mountaineers about the fundamentals of drone aviation, engineering and basic experimental design and statistics.
  • Enhancing glacier environmental studies through aerial data collection.

DJI is committed to advancing first response through drones and other technologies. In addition to the partnership with Black Channel, Durscher discussed DJI’s work with the Brussels-based EENA, including a white paper on emergency services to be released later this year.

“Through our EENA and DJI partnership we have already gained a lot of knowledge about needs of first responders,” Durscher said. “This project with Black Channel built upon that knowledge and allowed us to utilize and test our hardware and software solutions in a very challenging environment.”

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