An initiative funded by innovation body EIT Digital is trialling emergency management drones for use in fires, locating missing persons and other emergency situations.
Autonomous drone development programme UAV-Retina has overseen initial field tests of the drones, which are capable of autonomous flight and data gathering, in Rennes, France and at a fire department training ground just outside Trento, Italy. The programme is being led by researchers at the University of Rennes, in partnership with the Fondazione Bruno Kessler of Trento, Dutch data analytics firm Bright Cape and French edge cloud computing company JCP Connect.
The emergency management drones will be provided by Eole-Eyes, a UAV-Retina-sponsored French startup; and built by French manufacturer Hexadrone. They will operate on predetermined flight paths – in setting these routes, operators can also define ‘no-flight’ areas, such as areas where firefighters intend to deploy water or routes along which people will be evacuated. The drones will collate and process data to be passed to operators in real time; and are expected to be capable of detecting concealed explosive devices as well as monitoring fires and detecting missing people. The algorithms controlling the drones will use ‘on-the-fly analysis’ and machine learning software to sharpen the accuracy and precision of the data and images they gather, based on operator feedback.
Olivier Martineau, CEO of Eole-Eyes, said: “Manual driving is still available, if needed, but in most situations the operator just has to draw a flight perimeter at the start, and the software takes care of all the rest. It’s also possible to tell the drone which areas to avoid. Telemetry data coming from the drone, battery level and other parameters such as line of communication are constantly monitored by the system to make sure the drone is functioning according to the plan and to recalculate new trajectories if not.”
Testing of the emergency management drones will continue until the end of 2019.