New ‘swarm technology’ develops emergency drones
University of Pennsylvania engineers create new devices to help first responders
Imagine thousands of “talking” drones, able to act as a high-level rescue missions in the face of an imminent danger. Sounds like a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie, but in a University of Pennsylvania lab, engineers have produced.
“Swarm” drones, who can navigate on their own and coordinate with each other with the help of advanced given technology, could be the next fleet of the emergency services.
These devices can function as a rescue unit to investigate an active crime scene or a natural disaster – the capture of images and other data that can help law enforcement plan next steps from a safe distance, said Penn researcher and a member of the team Giuseppe Loianno.
“Imagine that in the event of a fire, the drones can be sent,” said Loianno. “The fire department can remain in a safe environment and in real-time to receive multiple images in order to plan for the team is the next step.”
The drones, which range in size from less than a pound, or four pounds, internal applications that accompany them in the search-and-rescue operations.
Drones can vary in size from 20 grams to two kilograms, each quadrotor is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight development of the council. The board of directors includes a built-in quad-core computer, a downward facing VGA camera with 160◦ field of view, a VGA-stereo camera pair, and a 4K video camera.
“We really need to look at these machines as vehicles that can help people [in emergencies],” Loianno said: “They can find the injured and the identification of critical points.”
While many commercial drones rely on satellite signals and can only function in the open air, these drones are use algorithms, which enable them to perceive their environment by means of onboard cameras and inertial measurement units (IMU) — which is the technology used in smartphones to tell when the screen orientation is changed.
“It is as if they have eyes to see,” said Loianno.
Lioanno held the small device in his hand, and shows how the two cameras work together, as it were, the eyes to explore the environment around them— the tones of the four small propellers that can take off the drone high in the air and the brain that make use of sensors to predict and feel the next movement.
IMUs, or “smartphone” technology developed by Qualcomm that is installed in each drone, allowing a GPS receiver to work when GPS-signals are unavailable, such as in tunnels, inside buildings, or when electronic interference is present.
Swarm drones are able to communicate in groups as small as twelve to as large as a thousand (or more) without affecting the speed and functionality.
(University of Pennsylvania )
Loianno calls this research is unprecedented. They are now testing 12 drones, but he said that the swarm of drones can quickly cluster in numbers are much higher
The testing is not complete and some features are still in development. But Loianno said that he is convinced these drones can serve as pre-emergency companions for the enforcement of the law.
As the technology rapidly cheaper and more sophisticated, the interest in the use of drones for police investigations have skyrocketed in the entire country. But its use has led to concern among civil liberty experts are of the opinion that the increasing use of drones under the agencies of the government is a gross violation of privacy. A 2011 report by the American Civil Liberties Union suggested that, if a drone intrudes on the “privacy” and “expectations”, a warrant should be required.
“Rules must be put in place to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this new technology without bringing us closer to a ‘surveillance society’, the ACLU says in its report, “in which our removal is Experts also say that if placed in the wrong hands, the technology can be dangerous.
“One of the problems with the way items progress of the research to commercial use is that hostile governments will attempt to steal intellectual property at this stage and use it for their own programs,” said Stratfor Security Analyst Scott Stewart. “This poses a threat to the national security.”
The university will not control how or who uses the technology in the future, but have noted that the devices have received the attention of NASA, along with the funding of the Pentagon and the National Science Foundation. Although it is unclear how much the device will cost, some say that they can sell for about $1,000.
“There are a lot of life safety issues that can be improved or solved from the use of this technology,” says Stewart. “This device has two applications, a role the survey and collect information, and the other is to act as a responder [weapon].”
He said that the American law enforcement officers can use this type of technology in the very near future.
“Any technology that can be used by the good guys or the bad guys,” said Stewart. “Drones are just tools and can not circumvent the planning process, so that the security analyst will still have the ability to predict and prevent threats.”
Talia Kirkland is a multimedia reporter based in Philadelphia, Pa.