It is known that in most natural disasters or catastrophes there are always material losses, as well as deceased and survivors, some of whom may have been trapped in the rubble of a house or building whose structure has collapsed.
This is where every minute of finding them counts. In that sense, drones have been a very useful addition to this task thanks to their ability to inspect large areas for rescue personnel on the ground.
Thus also a drone can fly over areas that are inaccessible to rescue teams, thereby expanding the possibilities of finding survivors and speeding up their rescue.
In an attempt to expand the potential of these devices during search and rescue work in accidents, a team led by Macarena Varela has taken on the task of equipping a drone with microphones and a sophisticated audio processing system that is capable of detecting the voice of people who may be trapped at the scene of the accident.
Macarena Varela is a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics (Fraunhofer FKIE) in Germany, who recently presented this project during a virtual congress organized by the Acoustical Society of America (HANDLE).
Regarding the operation of the acoustic system of the drone, it is in charge of process all sounds that are generated at the disaster site in order to filter them and discard those that are not relevant, including the drone itself. In this way, the device will only focus on sounds that may be being emitted by a human being that is hidden among the rubble or may be missing in a natural place such as a forest or the mountain.
In addition to detecting sound, the drone will also be able to set the precise direction from which it comes. Thanks to this, the rescue teams will be able to obtain the coordinates and go directly to the source from which the human sound is emitted.
During a test carried out with the drone Varela and his colleagues were able to witness the effectiveness that this device demonstrated in detecting specific sounds above that emitted by the device itself during its operation.
It should be noted that Varela and his team have vast experience in everything that refers to filtering noise generated by different sources such as helicopters, ground vehicles or the wind.
Likewise, a large number of new tests were carried out with the drone in an open field in which the team members themselves participated by making different types of sounds in order to verify the effectiveness of the device to detect them.
Despite the good performance shown by the drone in these tests, the researchers want to incorporate a higher fidelity microphone in order to broaden the detection spectrum and thus be able to cover larger spaces.