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Avalanche: A drone could speed up search and rescue

Published on 6 January 2021

​In an avalanche, every minute counts. The longer a victim is buried under the snow, the less chance they have of surviving. CEA-Leti researchers equipped a drone with a network of antennas run by a radio-frequency circuit to help speed up search and rescue operations.

The system utilizes algorithms to estimate which directions Bluetooth and GSM signals are coming from. It can locate a smartphone to within a meter and inspect 10,000 sq. m of terrain in just minutes. Ideally, the system would be used in conjunction with existing systems, such as avalanche transceivers, or on its own if the victims are not equipped with another device. Initial lab tests have been encouraging. Field tests will be carried out this winter. The drone can be used year-round to search for victims in difficult-to-access areas. A patent was filed to protect the innovation.

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