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German researchers develop rescue drone that can recognize calls for help

German researchers develop rescue drone that recognizes calls for help

German researchers have developed a rescue drone that can recognize calls for help from people on the ground and link a position to it. The aim is to be able to start aid faster and more effectively after a natural disaster such as an earthquake or flood. During initial field tests, the drone was able to locate someone on the ground within seconds.

German researchers develop rescue drone that can recognize calls for help

The listening rescue drone was developed at the Fraunhofer FKIE Institute. To train the drone, the researchers first recorded various sounds that people in need often make, such as calls for help, taps/claps, and other sounds. The recordings were then fed into a machine learning module. The software was then trained to filter out sounds from the drone itself.

German researchers develop rescue drone that can recognize calls for help

The operation of the drone was recently tested for the first time over an open field. There the system turned out to be able to locate a subject’s cry for help within a few seconds.

“Drones can cover a larger area in a shorter time than rescuers or trained dogs on the ground. For example, if a building has collapsed, the drone can alert and assist rescuers. The drone can reach places that rescuers cannot reach themselves,” said Macarena Varela, one of the project’s chief engineers.

German researchers have developed a rescue drone that can recognize calls for help from people on the ground and link a position to it.

Improve reach of the rescue drone

Apart from the software, the drone itself is not very complex, according to the researchers. The microphones are the same as those used in smartphones. In the future, the developers want to add microphones that are more sensitive to high frequencies, in order to improve the range of the listening drone.

German researchers develop rescue drone that can recognize calls for help
Figure 1: Conceptual diagram to localize victims

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Wiebe de Jager

Wiebe de Jager (@wdejager) is the founder of Dronewatch and author of several bestselling books about drone photography. Wiebe is a certified drone pilot and has a full ROC license.

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