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Search and rescue drone trial is major success

29 July 2013

Chris Theobald

Social media search agents from 25 countries collaborate in pioneering research project  

Pictured from left to right: Paul Egglestone (UCLan), Darren Ansell (UCLan), Dan Etherington (e-Migs), Chris Abramczyk (UCLan), Billy Beggs (UCLan), Mike Blakey (Patterdale Mountain Rescue) and Glenn Bridge (Patterdale Mountain Rescue)

A pioneering search and rescue drone trial by research staff at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has been declared an unqualified success.

The project, that in the future has the potential to save lives in the Lake District mountains and further afield, was a collaborative venture involving staff at UCLan’s Aerospace Centre and Media Innovation Studio working in conjunction with Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team.

And on the day of the launch mission, 350 people from 25 countries including the US, Africa and Europe, acted as ‘virtual’ mountain rescue search assistants as they joined the live search and rescue trial operation from their desktop computers, tablet devices and mobiles.

 

“We received a great response from the general public with online search volunteers taking part from countries all over the world.”

Paul Egglestone, Director of the Media Innovation Studio, said: “Every year Patterdale Mountain Rescue assists hundreds of injured and missing persons from around the Ullswater area in the North of the Lake District. The average search takes several hours and can require a large team of volunteers to set out in often poor weather conditions.

“Our experiment was to see how the use of UAV (or ‘drone’) technology, together with ‘crowd-sourced’ help, could reduce the time taken to locate and rescue a person in distress.

“We received a great response from the general public with online search volunteers taking part from countries all over the world. Our website received over 211,000 hits, correctly identifying the walkers with a dog and a missing person within just five minutes of the operation going live. The research has clearly demonstrated how powerful this technology can be when people are persuaded to engage with it.”

 

“The media interest in the whole project has been great for the team, the technology was fascinating to watch and who knows how it might work with us and for us in future.”

Aerosee Search and Rescue Drone

In all, 100 images were tagged per minute and 3500 images were tagged within the first hour of the experiment.

Mike Blakey, Patterdale Team Leader, said: “Drones may turn out to be a useful addition to our toolbox in some search situations and the idea of getting people to help with the operation online from wherever they are in the world is an interesting one.

“The media interest in the whole project has been great for the team, the technology was fascinating to watch and who knows how it might work with us and for us in future.”

Watch a video of the search and rescue drone in action.