July 29, 2021

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Scientists Are Teaching Drones To Hunt Down Human Screams

Scientists Are Teaching Drones To Hunt Down Human Screams

If someone created a flying machine capable of tracking you down by listening for your voice, you might be creeped out. But what if you were pinned under a pile of rubble after a natural disaster and first responders couldn’t locate you? Maybe then a human-seeking drone wouldn’t be such a terrible idea. From a report: That concept is the focus for engineers at Germany’s Fraunhofer FKIE institute, who’ve built a drone prototype designed to find people by detecting human screams and listening for other signs of distress. One of the lead engineers, Macarena Varela, showcased their progress last week at an annual conference hosted by the Acoustic Society of America. While it’s easy to imagine human-seeking drones in a sci-fi horror movie, Varela says the gadget would be ideal for post-disaster scenarios, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfires. They could hover over an area that rescue crews have difficulty getting to and pinpoint where people may be trapped.

“[Drones] can cover a larger area in a shorter period of time than rescuers or trained dogs on the ground,” Varela said. “If there’s a collapsed building, it can alert and assist rescuers. It can go places they can’t fly to or get to themselves.” Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones are commonly used for search-and-rescue missions when disasters strike. Most often, they take aerial images of structural damage. Some have thermal imaging capabilities to scan for body heat, while larger drones can deliver medical supplies and other goods to people in isolated areas. But researchers are finding more novel uses for an extra set of eyes in the sky — and noses. The University of Washington imagines drones that use smell to locate disaster survivors. The Aerospace Corporation is working on drones that can visually identify dogs and share their location with rescue teams. The University of Zurich developed a drone to change shape midflight to fit into oddly shaped crevices. Locating people using aerial acoustics presents its share of challenges. An auditory system would need to decipher between human cries and sounds that often happen in nature, such as animal calls and wind. It might also need to recognize patterns associated with kicking, clapping or other ways people try to get the attention of rescue teams.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.