Swiss air rescue service, Rega has introduced a new tool to search missing persons. It is an autonomous drone that can scan large areas and also identify potential targets
The drone is designed with heat-seeking technology to help the human rescue team by finding people who are injured, lost or ill in the mountains of Lichtenstein and Switzerland (Areas where Rega operates).
This small drone is equipped with daylight and infrared cameras, and a mobile phone tracking function. This tracker can spot a phone from hundreds of meters away in an uninhabited area and therefore its owner as well.
Rega has also developed software with university ETH Zurich, which enables the drone to transfer the pixel pattern of the collected images and any other information on a presumed human back to the operator on the ground. The software is a machine-learning algorithm; hence it will get better and accurate with time. Rega is a private non-profit who developed the drone when they were unable to find a solution in the market.
The company wanted a device that could cover a vast area of land autonomously and run for hours beyond the sight of its human operator.
Sascha Hardeggar is the head of helicopter operations, Rega said, that they wanted to take the initiative and develop the drone in collaboration with some suitable partner. He led the project and observed the drone technology development from a very early stage, and Rega was convinced that such an autonomous drone could help them in their search missions.
Rega also stressed that the drone is not intended to replace their human rescuers, rather it a tool for them to work faster as the drone can operate even in poor visibility where human crews might not be able to search.