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Police to use drones to help find missing people

The system is twice as fast as other state-of-the-art algorithms and its ability to recognise humans is enhanced the more frequently it is used.

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Based on machine learning, the system provides real-time image analysis for identifying humans
Based on machine learning, the system provides real-time image analysis for identifying humans

Scotland’s national police force, Police Scotland, is set to deploy remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to help find missing and vulnerable people.

 

The technology, thought to be the first of its kind used by police forces in the UK, is based on a form of machine learning that provides real-time image analysis for identifying humans in rural areas.

 

Trials of the new system

 

It has been developed by a consortium of partners comprising Thales UK, the University of the West of Scotland, Censis and Police Scotland.

 

With core artificial intelligence (AI) development work complete and already underway, the project team expects the technology to be rolled out in the near future.

 

Trained with hundreds of hours of footage of officers in different clothing, positions and situations at police premises, the AI scours an image and can locate a person within seconds at a distance of up to 150 metres.

 

According to the partners, the system is twice as fast as other state-of-the-art algorithms and its ability to recognise humans is enhanced the more frequently it is used.

 

“The use of remotely piloted aircraft systems in an operational policing environment is still a relatively new field and this collaboration presents a unique opportunity for Police Scotland to be involved in the development of new technology which will enhance the service delivered to the people of Scotland,” said inspector Nicholas Whyte, Police Scotland Air Support Unit.

 

The RPAS is operated by a specially trained officer on the ground, while another officer receives a real-time video feed from the RPAS cameras on a smartphone.

 

“Once commercialised, the system has huge potential in a wide variety of sectors”

 

The incorporation of the AI technology will help Police Scotland cover large areas of ground in the search for a missing person, reducing the need for lengthy and meticulous checks from teams of officers on the ground.

 

Although initially being employed in the search for missing and vulnerable people, the technology could potentially be used in a variety of other applications, including monitoring wildlife on land and at sea.

 

“The project is pushing the boundaries of machine learning. It’s testament to the depth of technical skills and knowledge in Scotland’s academic institutions and businesses that this pioneering technology is being developed here,” added Craig Fleming, senior business development manager at Censis.

 

“Once commercialised, the system has huge potential in a wide variety of sectors. This is another example of how Scotland is becoming a hub of exciting developments in the use of AI in imaging, with a range of academic and industry partnerships developing new capabilities and products.”

 

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The system has been trained with hundreds of hours of footage
The system has been trained with hundreds of hours of footage
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