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Autonomous drone trialled for emergency management

The vehicles can fly without human intervention and provide on-the-fly analysis that could help locate a missing person or monitor a fire in an emergency situation.

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An operator draws a flight perimieter at the start and the software takes care of the rest
An operator draws a flight perimieter at the start and the software takes care of the rest

UAV-Retina, a European initiative funded by EIT Digital, has announced it is developing drones that can fly autonomously and be used in emergency situations such as locating missing persons or monitoring fires.

 

The hardware and software platform with on-the-fly analysis is designed to fly without the need for human intervention.

 

Inaugural flight

 

The first successful flight tests have already been carried out this spring in Italy near Trento at the fire department’s training ground and in Rennes, France.

 

Researchers at the University of Rennes are leading the initiative, which will run until the end of this year. The university has teamed up with experts from the Fondazione Bruno Kessler of Trento, Dutch company Bright Cape and JCP Connect.

 

“Manual driving is still available, if needed, but in most situations the operator just has to draw a flight perimeter at the start, and the software takes care of all the rest,” said Olivier Martineau, CEO of Eole-Eyes, a start-up that was born out of the UAV-Retina initiative.

 

He continued: “It’s also possible to tell the drone which areas to avoid.”

 

To precisely map its surroundings, the application relies on maps taken from Open Street Map and Bing Maps. At the same time, real-time data from infrared or traditional cameras on board can be fed to the rescuers so that they can better assess the situation.

 

The image processing algorithms work in a continuous learning mode, so operator inputs are used for constant accuracy and precision improvements.

“Manual driving is still available, if needed, but in most situations the operator just has to draw a flight perimeter at the start, and the software takes care of all the rest”

“Telemetry data coming from the drone, battery level and other parameters such as line of communication are constantly monitored by the system to make sure the drone is functioning according to the plan and to recalculate new trajectories if not,” added Martineau.

 

In addition to be being used to monitor fires and locate people in search and rescue operations, Eole-Eyes drones can also be used to spot hidden improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as a result of integrated georadar onboard the drone. Pre-recorded flights on high-risk sites will also be possible.

 

Eole-Eyes said it has obtained all the appropriate authorisation to act as an official drone operator as well as for photographic acquisition and video shooting from the air.

 

The drones themselves will be manufactured under a partnership deal with French company Hexadrone.

 

Strategic planning technologies developed by FBK and Univ Rennes 1 will ensure that each operator can control multiple devices simultaneously.

JCP Connect is focusing on drone fleet communication where multiple devices are in use, and Bright Cape on data analytics.

 

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