The February 2023 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Crowdsourced UAV Rescue Squad Gets Put to the Test

Drones team up with humans to help locate people lost in the wilderness

2 min read
Crowdsourced UAV Rescue Squad Gets Put to the Test

You'd think that nobody really wants to be spied on by drones. In fact, there is one group of people who desperately want to be seen by drones. Or, really, seen by anybody, human or robot or whatever. And those are the people who are hopelessly lost.

Even in our relentlessly connected world, it's still alarminglyeasyto end upin asituation where you have no idea where you are, and more importantly, even less of an idea how to get somewhere where you would know where you are. And it's not like realizing that you're lost does you any good: the key is for someone else to realize the same thing, and then do something useful about it. This is where the drones can help, but humans need to pitch in as well.

AeroSee is a project from UCLan (which I'm sure I don't need to remind you is the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K.) in partnership with Patterdale Mountain Rescue, from the Ullswater area in the North of the Lake District. I don't know where any of these places are, but my best guess is that there are mountains and lakes and districts, all of which are notorious lost-human magnets. Patterdale Mountain Rescue's job is to go find people who've been lost, but they've got a lot of ground to cover (all of Patterdale Mountain, for heaven's sake), why is why they're experimenting with using swarms of drones as spotter aircraft.

Writing vision algorithms to reliably teach a drone to recognize a human in rough terrain is brain-searingly difficult, so the AeroSee project is instead relying on real brains. Your brains. AeroSee's UAVs will fly around snapping lots of pictures and sending them back to a ground station, which in turn sends them off to be analyzed by a crowd of "Search Agents" like you on your computer or smartphone. If you see something, you can tag the image, and a member of the rescue team will go check it out.

Search and rescue is serious business, but to get people to participate, AeroSee plays a little bit like a game, complete with leader boards for those who check out the most images. Ending up at the top will earn you a ridiculously expensive pair of hand-made sunglasses. The first simulated mission kicks off today at 7:30 a.m. ET, and if you're awake, you can sign up to participate at the link below.

[ AeroSee ] via [ Engadget ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

Keep Reading ↓Show less