A group of Loughborough University students have devised a ‘swarm’ system using smart unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that could be the future for mountain search and rescue.
The 13 undergraduates were challenged to design and develop a UAV capable of finding a person in a search and rescue mission for a group project as part of their final year aeronautical MEng degree.
The swarm system uses up to ten UAVs operating together, flying at about 50-55 mph, to search an area of 12 square miles using GPS. Each has an infrared camera and they can ‘talk’ to each other. So as long as one is in range of base they can all communicate with the rescue team.
The students developed an image processing code that enables the cameras to detect human beings. However, due to the time constraints of a seven-month project, the images can only be downloaded and processed after the UAVs have returned to base.
The next stage is to do this in real time and the lecturers want a group in the next academic year to continue the work, developing a system which is potentially cheaper than using helicopters and quicker than rescuers on quad bikes.