Drone technology could make mountain searches much quicker

Software has been developed in venture involving Donegal Mountain Rescue and leading drone manufacturer

Drone technology developed in Co Donegal could make it much quicker to locate people reported missing on mountains and in remote countryside, according to the developers of new software.

The software has been developed as part of a joint venture involving Donegal Mountain Rescue and DJI, a leading drone manufacturer, following test exercises this year.

DroneSAR, the four-person company involved in developing it, is working on further improvements. The company’s app is based on digital mapping of areas in which people have gone missing.

The speed at which a drone could navigate an area and locate a casualty was compared to that of a typical five-member rescue team on the ground during tests last April. Drone location times in classic rescue scenarios were found to be between six and eight times faster, with the advantage over human rescue teams of being able to avoid difficult terrain and to use thermal imaging technology to spot people in the dark.

Colour recognition

DroneSAR, which anticipates licensing its app for €1,200 when it comes to market, is now developing shape and colour recognition as well as night vision.

The software will be launched at the Drone Data X Conference in Dublin on Thursday.

DJI will publish its white paper on the overall project – it was carried out in conjunction with the European Emergency Number Association in Donegal, Wales, Denmark and Iceland – at the Web Summit next week.

An open emergency services workshop, hosted by CopterShop Ireland, will be briefed on the results in Dublin this Thursday.

Romeo Durscher, director of education at DJI, said: "Ireland has played a very important part in this project. This is the first time we have had dedicated software that runs on a drone and helps search-and-rescue."

Oisin McGrath of DroneSAR said communication was key – the software allowed everyone involved in the search to receive real time drone data. “We are not trying to disrupt the search-and-rescue industry, we are trying to improve it.”