The use of drones as professional tools is developing steadily. Thanks to their abilities, they represent an efficient, fast and safe solution to help rescuers and safety professionals.
In the current state of the art, search for avalanche victims is first conducted on the ground by rescuers engaged by the ski lifts of a ski resort. After approximately fifteen minutes, this rapid intervention team is then joined by professional rescue guides, paramedics and mountain doctors. Those professionals are all brought to the avalanche area by helicopter companies which are key actors in the swiss life-line. On the ground, the main technology used by the rescuers, to find victims, is the widespread avalanche beacon. Those beacons have for purpose of search devices as well as distress beacons.
Considering that under an avalanche the first fifteen minutes are crucial for survival, search time is of paramount importance. This key parameter can be influenced by both bad weather conditions as well as the difficult evolution of the intervention teams on chaotic ground and risky zones. Last, the rescuer’s vision only covers what can be seen from the ground.
A main advantage of using a drone in such a situation resides in the fact that the whole avalanche area can be observed with a global vision without being affected by the nature of the terrain. The autonomous feature of that aircraft allows rescuers to launch it and focus on other tasks – such as medical supply preparations or free first found victims from snow. Our search technology is based on the avalanche beacon, presented above. Moreover, the solution proposed in this project will be able to manage the complex and well-known problem of multiple buried victims. This will drastically decrease the search time and boost the victim chances of survival. Indeed, our technology could ensure more safety for intervention teams and provide them a solution even when they can’t intervene directly.
Our main goal is so to develop a 1st proof-of-concept product at the end of the year and to run our first field trials and beta-tests with ski resorts.
Was ist das Besondere an diesem Projekt?
Our main innovation resides in the development of an autonomous and optimized avalanche beacon research algorithm combined with professional "off the shelf" drones augmented with specific hardware. The main advantages of our approach compared to the existing and manual ground search currently used are:
- Increased survivability of victims by decreasing search time.
- Multiple victim detection.
- Reduced risks taken by rescuers involved.
- Better accessibility to difficult terrains.
Our project was first analyzed during the last year of our bachelor’s degree in a business course of the School of Management from the HES-SO in Sierre. There, we worked on the development of the project from a business perspective to determine the potential market the project could target, a work which enabled us to win an award for the best project of the year 2018.
Based on the general interest for the project, we worked on two Bachelor theses at the School of Engineering of Sion. The first one developed a software environment allowing to control and interface with an industrial drone developed by the world leader in the domain. The main objective was to offer the user on the ground an interface with the drone to make it perform autonomous missions and manage them. The second Bachelor thesis successfully tested three different search algorithms based on a numerical model of a drone coupled with avalanche transceiver technology. After the completion of the two bachelor theses, the team spent two months combining the two projects. Besides that, we got a 3-months cantonal grant and build up our partnership with the well-known helicopter rescue company Air-Glaciers.
The product is so currently under development. Our team is working on a first version of the drone (1st proof-of-concept) that will allow us to perform various tests, and to present a first version of our product to our partners.
In addition to product development, the team is also working on several financing solutions, as well as various legal and commercial aspects. A partnership with HEI-VS and the incubator The Ark will facilitate networking and bringing missing skills throughout the project.
Jonathan Michel, 2018, « Système embarqué pour drone Matrice 210 », Haute École d’ingénierie de Sion;
Bontempelli Vincent, 2018, «Détection de victimes d’avalanches par drone (analyse du signal et stratégies de déplacement du drone) », Haute École d’ingénierie de Sion.
Am Projekt beteiligte Personen
Letzte Aktualisierung dieser Projektdarstellung 04.03.2019