In a disaster situation such as earthquakes, tornados or war situations, the main challenges for the search and rescue teams is to find and locate victims in the first hours of the disaster. In this project, we have developed a new technique that allows search and rescue teams to detect and locate victims and possible survivors through their mobile phones and smart devices. This technique exploits the radio beacon that is continuously emitted by the mobile phones, trying to connect to the network. Through the received signal strength, we can estimate the distance to the source of the signal. For this technique to work with a higher accuracy, we propose to equip a group of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, with a radio scanning system, and deploy them over the disaster area. By using a trilateration technique, the detected person can be located with acceptable accuracy. This technique is particularly beneficial for rescuers to locate victims and survivors trapped under the rubble or in places that are inaccessible to rescuers.
Upon detecting a signal, a drone coordinates with all the other drones that have sensed the same signal. Through the trilateration techniques, the detected signal by the drones is processed and converted into GPS coordinates, and the most probable position of the victim is established. Our system can detect various types of radio signals like: cellular signals, WiFi, and Bluetooth signals. Given the trains and the nature of the disaster, the trilateration techniques may not be very accurate, however with enough drones hovering over the coverage area the localisation of the victims can be greatly improved. Our system can still face few challenges when the victims are stranded below few meters of rubble and wreckage, however scanning for signals can be an effective tool to find the whereabouts of victims and even within a large area is acceptable for the search team to concentrate their rescue efforts and to provide the initial assistance to the victims.
The use of drones for search and rescue can be optimised by organising the drones in swarms that can be deployed over larger areas with the ability to navigate autonomously through various obstacles. Despite the complexity of the coordination of a large number of drones flying over disaster area, drones organised in swarms will be able to scan and map the entire affected area in less than an hour after a disaster strikes. This process will allow the first responders to have the whereabouts of most of the victims and their probable locations in a map at the earliest stages of the rescue efforts.
Providing assistance to the victims in the first hours of a disaster is critical, therefore our system can play an import part in helping the search and rescue teams in getting to the victim’s location in the shortest time possible, which will ultimately lead to saving more human lives.