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New search and rescue drones navigate dense jungle to find you




Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed autonomous search and rescue drones that can collaboratively navigate through dense forest, without GPS.

The MIT research group worked on the project alongside the NASA Langley Research Center and have just presented their findings to the International Symposium on Experimental Robotics (ISER) in Buenos Aires.

When people get lost in heavily forested areas, it is often near-on impossible for search and rescue aircraft to spot a lost person through the forest canopy.  The innovations created by the MIT team mean their drones are better able to navigate their way through any remote environments where a person may be lost or trapped.

How does it work?

Each drone is equipped with 2D LIDAR system which measures the distance between themselves and obstacles by shooting laser beams and measuring the reflected pulses.  As the drones navigate their way through the unfamiliar environment, they create 3D maps of the surrounding areas. An algorithm helps the drone know which areas it has and has not searched and an off-ground station helps the fuse together the 3D maps from each drone in real-time which is monitored by human rescue teams.

The drone’s on-board mapping system identifies areas that have and have not already been searched meaning they cover ground quickly.

Lead researcher of the project, Yulun Tian said: “Essentially, we’re replacing humans with a fleet of drones to make the search part of the search-and-rescue process more efficient.”

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