AeroSee drones take to sky in search and rescue scenario

Drone search and rescue research project discovers ‘missing hiker’ in 69 seconds

Tucked away in a corner of a cricket club in Patterdale in the Lake District, the AeroSee team tested a its drone crowdsourcing software last week in a search and rescue scenario held in conjunction with Patterdale Mountain Rescue.

A collaboration between UCLan’s Aerospace School and the Media Innovation Studio, the AeroSee research project is investigating how drone/UAV technology could be used for a range of civilian purposes, including journalism, search and rescue and wildlife conservation.

On Thursday 25th July, the UCLan research team and Patterdale Mountain Rescue took the skies to run a mock search and rescue scenario. The drones would be used to map a pre-defined area using an HD camera, and these images would be streamed around the globe to registered web users.

Thanks to the eagle-eyed participants, the ‘stranded walker’ was identified in the first 69 seconds of the test, and before the drone had returned from its search path.

During the 20-minute flight, the team captured in excess of 2,000 images and around 350 volunteers ‘tag’ the images in search for a ‘lost’ group of walkers.

AeroSee air shot

A shot taken directly from our unmanned aerial vehicle.

Dr Darren Ansell, from UCLan’s Aerospace Centre, said the project “is an experiment to see how we can use unmanned aircraft technology to do some good…”

“One of the obvious applications [for the technology] would the mountain rescue service as they often have to operate in quite hostile environments to search for missing people. The purpose of this project was to see if we could use this technology to search for a missing person, and could it speed up the time it takes to find them.

Aerosee Drones

Paul Egglestone, director of the Media Innovation Studio, said: “We wondered whether we could use the collective power of a 1,000 pairs of eyes to look at footage created by our AeroSee drone and help the mountain rescue by tagging images users thought could be indentified as an injured walker.”

These images are then processed to establish which images, and therefore locations, could have captured someone in distress. This information could then be passed on to the search and rescue team.

Mike Blakey of Patterdale Mountain Rescue said: “I think it’s fascinating. We’re watching [the development of the technology] with interest and we’re keen to be involved… There are a whole range of issues that still need to be thought through, such as the weather and flight times, but we watch with interest how it will be developed.”

Future tests are planned over the coming months, and more information can be found on our project page here, or on the AeroSee website.

'Spot the drone'