We have all heard of miraculous rescues involving victims of earthquakes and other natural (as well as man-made) disasters who were thought dead, then found alive beneath the wreckage of buildings and landslides after days of being buried alive. Now, thanks to a joint mission between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate such miracles may happen more often than not.
Known as FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), the new technology employs advanced Jet Propulsion Lab data processing systems “sensitive enough to distinguish the unique signature of a human's breathing pattern and heartbeat from that of other living creatures, such as rats, and can even tell whether the victim is conscious or not,” explained said Edward Chow, JPL program manager.
“This capability will complement the current urban search and rescue tools such as canines, listening devices and video cameras to detect the presence of living victims in rubble. We all know how critical it is to be able to quickly detect giving victims in order to increase their chances of rescue and survival,” added John Price, manager of DHS's Science and Technology Program..
Although there is still some tweaking to be done including the ability to miniaturize the sensing module so it can be installed in search and rescue robots, as well as on stretchers and in ambulances to monitor patients’ heartbeats, it is anticipated that a commercialized application of the system could be ready for search and rescue missions by spring.