Every year authorities in Switzerland have to address over 1,000 calls regarding injured or missing hikers. This number could go way down now that drones may help search for lost hikers.
A team of researchers from Switzerland have started to teach drones how to navigate forest trails and from the experiments that they’ve conducted so far it seems that these unmanned aerial vehicles can predict the correct path 85% of the time.
This could be the answer that most people have been looking for, seeing how man-led search and rescue operations are not only costly, but they also take a lot of time. It is important to keep in mind that time is the primary factor taken into consideration when trying to locate a lost hiker, due to the unforeseen dangers that they may be exposed to or the serious injuries that they could be suffering from.
From this perspective, it is a safe bet to say that a drone is less expensive and more efficient, because the automated process it uses allows it to conduct a search faster and more in-depth.
In order to teach drones how to overcome a variety of obstacles that they may encounter, computer scientists from the Dale Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the University of Zurich have created a special navigation software. The algorithms of this software will allow the drone to recognize a vast array of forest landscapes and to specifically follow man-made trails.
As Alessandro Giusti, researcher at the Dale Molle Institute, points out, this is an incredibly difficult task, because often times not even humans can follow the trails designed for them, so to ask a computer to navigate such elaborate surroundings is definitely a challenge.
The team of researchers managed to train the drone by feeding it 20,000 images of hiking trails from the Alps, taken with the help of a helmet cam. Having all this information available and the right software to process it, the drone was capable to predict the correct trail 85% of the time, whereas humans had an 82% success rate.
Juergen Schmidhuber, director of science at the Dale Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence says the method that was used for these drones has been under development in their lab since the early 1990s and it’s been used not only for drones, but also for various applications, such as speech recognition products and lightweight robots.
Image Source: Gizmag