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Fleets of Drones Could Aid Searches for Lost Hikers

By MIT News

November 5, 2018

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed an autonomous system for a fleet of drones that uses onboard computation and wireless communication, with no global positioning system required, to collaboratively search under forest canopies.

The system could be beneficial to finding lost hikers.

Each autonomous quadrotor drone is equipped with laser-range finders for position estimation, localization, and path planning. As the drone flies through the forest, it creates a three-dimensional (3D) map of the terrain, then algorithms help the drone recognize unexplored and already-searched areas.

An off-board ground station combines individual maps from multiple drones into a global 3D map that can be monitored by human rescuers.

Said MIT's Yulun Tian, "Essentially, we're replacing humans with a fleet of drones to make the search part of the search-and-rescue process more efficient."

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