Tag Archive | Search & Rescue operation

Human Side(s) of UAVs – Mr. Patrick Meier exclusive for dronologista

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.


It is with genuine pleasure to share exclusive short interview with a pioneer in „digital humanitarian efforts“ (as praised by Mr. Clinton). For those not familiar with this super-visionary person, he is the one that launched UAViators and then iRevolutionMr. Patrick Meier himself. Whoever is interested at least a bit in humanitarian work and UAVs at the same time, should definitely pay a visit to those hubs of UAVs news and updates.

Mr. Patrick Meier

Mr. Patrick Meier

DM: How did you come up with idea of organizing online community for collecting samples of humanitarian use of UAV’s?

Mr. Meier: I was in the Philippines working with UN/OCHA shortly after Typhoon Haiyan and was struck by the number of different UAV projects that we’re going in. This was truly unprecedented. I was also concerned that none of the teams running these UAV projects had any idea about each other. This not only presents issue vis-a-vis operational safety and inefficient use of resources. I also noticed that most UAV projects did not share their imagery with local communities, nor did they engage local communities in any meaningful way. So I knew it was time to launch this community of practice. I personally have been flying UAVs for about 2 years now, and I started precisely because I wanted to explore how they might be used in humanitarian settings. But I didn’t expect to launch the Humanitarian UAV Network as soon as I did. It really was my experience in the Philippines that accelerated my decision to set up UAViators.

DM: What is the exact purpose of UAViators.org?

Mr. Meier: To create a global volunteer network of responsible civilian and hobbyist UAV pilots in order to facilitate information sharing, coordination and operational safety in support of humanitarian efforts. The purpose of this network is to be pro-active in educating new civilians pilots rather than waiting for mistakes to be made. The mission is thus two-fold, facilitating safe operations and establishing standards for the use of UAVs in broad humanitarian contexts.

DM: Do you find room for future extensive exploitations of UAVs, in the respect of humanitarian actions?

Mr. Meier: Yes, I believe it is inevitable that UAVs will become mainstream technologies in the humanitarian space; not only for multi-sensor data collection but also for the transport of small payloads and for providing 3G/4G & wifi services in areas where cell phone towers etc have been destroyed.

DM: Do you have any contact with international organizations, in regards with possible UAVs engagement?

Mr. Meier: Yes, several, including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Action (UN OCHA) and the American Red Cross, for example.

DM: Do you find public skeptical when it comes to use UAVs in humanitarian actions?

Mr. Meier: Less and less so. They are more skeptical about law enforcement uses, though, primarily because of understandable worries around data privacy. But Amazon’s foray into the drone space is certainly helping us in the humanitarian space by demonstrating the very real possibilities of UAVs.

DM: Are you personally satisfied with the developments of UAViators.org?

Mr. Meier: Yes, and very surprised that the Network has evolved so quickly with so many different key initiatives like the Crisis Map and Travel/Laws Wiki, for example.

DM: What is the future development plan in regards with UAViators.org? (If not confidential, of course)

Mr. Meier: We have several plans lined up including the launching of a training and certification course on UAVs for humanitarian organizations.

DM: Have you been engaged previously in any sort of humanitarian actions?

Mr. Meier:Yes, I’ve been involved in the humanitarian space in one way or another for about 12 years now.

DM: Beside UAViators.org, is there anything else you could share with us regarding the human side(s) of UAV?

Mr. Meier: Perhaps some of these posts may be of interest: iRevolution.

Hereby I would like to thank Mr. Patrick Meier on his time and willingness to share some more information with me. I am perfectly aware of amount of daily tasks he is facing. However we strongly support the enthusiasm and visionary that Mr Meier promotes in regard of humanitarian deployment of UAVs in the future. Furthermore I am going to update you guys on any news coming from Mr. Meier „kitchen“.
Picture and video property of iRevolution.net


Top 5 by dronologista @Robohub

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.


On 30th of May, a comment appeared on the About page of this blog. Hallie Siegel, the Managing Editor from Robohub, an excellent online communication platform for, well, robotics mostly, proposed to me to cross-post articles. After a brief Skype interview, I agreed (of course!) to share my blog posts, and to join an impressive group of contributors that included UAV heavyweights such as Chris Anderson and prof. dr. Raffaello D’Andrea.


Two months fast forward, and there are ten articles by dronologista at Robohub. Some of them are more some less successful, but all of them were interesting enough to grab attention of Robohub visitors. Here are the top 5 that were generating quite a lot of traffic:

  1. Drone Startups: Fotokite – This article is a part of ongoing series of Drone Startups posts. It is about a startup that designed what is basically a powered kite, not a quite a drone, ideally suited to dodge FAA scrutiny. The article was submitted to Slashdot harnessing traffic from it, and was even reposted on DIYDrones. Great success!
  2. Quadrotor allegedly seen spying on French teams closed practice at World Cup – Published during the World Cup craze, it attracted a lot of people. French coach Didier Deschamps was calling for investigation after a quadcopter was spotted spying over his team’s closed training session. It was not revealed whose drone it was, but since we know now that it was Germany that beat the French team in quarterfinals, it seems that Germans used high-tech solution to get to semifinals. No drones spied on Brazil team though, so I am out of theories why they lost 7-1.
  3. Rescue drone that finds survivors using their cellphones’ WiFi signals – Post about a UAV that was designed by team of students from EFPL. It includes the interview with Jonathan Cheseaux, the man behind the project.
  4. The thriving drone community of South Africa – While most of the stories found around the internet is focused on drones in US, this post covered a country that is not often featured online in connection to drones. Yet, a thriving community exists, and is very productive and creative.
  5. HorseFly unmanned aerial parcel delivery system – This post described something that could be Amazon’s wet dream. A combined transport system that uses both a van and a UAV to deliver the parcel, utilizing both vehicles advantages.

Those were 5 of mine most popular articles at Robohub after two months of collaboration, which I hope, will continue to flourish. I wonder if I will be able to completely redefine this list in six months time. Just a personal challenge for dronologista 🙂

What is your favorite blog post by dronologista?

Rescue drone that finds survivors using their cellphones

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.


Search and rescue operations are seeing more drones in use with every unfortunate event. The speed and ease with which UAVs can be launched is especially important when applying them as an emergency response tool. Dronologista already had a couple of posts that illustrate effectiveness and efficiency of drones in immediate post-disaster environment. The system that will be presented in this post can become a welcomed tool in rescue workers toolbox.

Jonathan Cheseaux, a masters student from Switzerland has developed a system to help drones home in on the location of people trapped underneath rubble. Dronologista had an opportunity to discuss the project with Jonathan via email, and here is what he says:

Dronologista: How did you come up with the idea?

Jonathan: The main goal of the project was to provide Wifi connection to people on the ground (in disaster areas, where there is no more connectivity), using swarms of flying robots. By analyzing the data collected by the wifi antenna embedded in the plane we thought about using this information to localize people and move the plane around so that the connection is better.

Dronologista:  Have you been working on it alone or it was a team effort?

Jonathan:  Team effort. I was working with two people, Stefano Rosati, a postdoc, and Karol Kruzelecki a graduate student. They helped me a lot to fulfill the project’s goals.

Dronologista:  How does this system work?

Jonathan:  The UAV sniff wifi packets periodically broadcast by smartphone (if wifi is switched on). The smartphone broadcast so-called “Probe request” to discover which wifis are in-range. We extract the signal power of these packets (RSSI) and use the GPS position of the plane to localize the users.

Jonathan Cheseaux and his team with Sensefly eBee used for the project

Jonathan Cheseaux and his team with Sensefly eBee used for the project

Dronologista:  Has it been tested, and if yes, how?

Jonathan: We flew the UAV around EPFL‘s campus and tried (and succeeded) to find the position of a smartphone randomly placed somewhere on a building with a satisfying precision.

Dronologista: What are potential problems?

Jonathan: If the WiFi of the smartphone is not switched on, we cannot localize the user. Also the signal can get scrambled by a lot of factors such as buildings reflecting the signal, weather conditions, plane’s orientation, etc. In the case of an earthquake for example, if the victim is buried under several meters of concrete the WiFi signal will not be detectable. Also Apple announced that they will randomize the MAC address while sending probe requests in iOS 8, this will make the localization quite impossible because now we rely on the fact that a MAC address is unique for a user, and thus fully determine which person we are localizing.

Dronologista: Were you contacted by any organization yet?

Jonathan: I’ve been invited to the UAV Show 2014 (London), they want me to give a small speech about my project during the conference. I’ve also been contacted by several companies that want to commercialize search and rescue drones.

Dronologista: What are future steps for this system?

Jonathan: Enhance precision by conducting more real life testing, maybe use GSM data aswell (IMSI catcher), but due to legal concern it could be difficult to implement. But the real improvement will be to use avalanche transceivers to find avalanche victims. I really want to work on that after my internship.

Dronologista: What are other projects you are working on, that you want to share?

Jonathan: During my bachelor studies, I’ve implemented a virtual reality project using Kinect and some physics engine. The goal was to project the user in a virtual environment and allow him to interact with them (shoot a virtual ball, smash a wall) but also draw interactive shapes with the only use of hand gestures (drawn shapes we bound to the physics engine so that it also falls/bounces etc. Last semester, I lead a project on Bitcoin trading. We’ve implemented sentiment analysis on tweets talking about bitcoin to probe the market’s mood and used time-series analysis to work directly on the bitcoin stock market. That was a really cool project. I’m going to start my master thesis soon, in which I will develop a smart search engine that will automatically classify documents, display augmented information, context, etc. I’m not sure yet what the project will be exactly, but it is definitely about machine learning stuff.

Dronologista wishes Jonathan and his team a lot of success with their projects, and expects to hear more good news about their endeavors soon. And so should you.

For further reading check EPFL news and SkyNews articles

Human Side(s) of UAVs – Mission Tacloban

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.


Whilst using the benefits of googlism phenomena, I found a remarkable piece of information which is perfectly suitable for today’s topic. It addresses the importance of quick and coordinated action after natural disasters strike (earthquakes, tsunamy, typhoons etc.), and the role UAVs in such circumstances.

The city of Tacloban, Phillipines, most probably would have never been mentioned in world’s news if it wasn’t unlucky to be in the epicenter of the typhoon Haiyan last November. Consequences were apocalyptic: destroyed houses, bridges, infrastructure and thousands of casualties and number of displaced that was measured in hundreds of thousands. Every communication channel was disrupted and those who were lucky enough to survive were facing even bigger challenges now: to be located and provided with immediate aid.

Biggest problems of aid organization, were: access to the affected areas and setting the priority lists. This is where today’s hero came up making this story less dramatic: danish product Huginn X1. This drone, specifically developed for emergency management activities, was able to hover in strong winds, rain and dust and still provide valuable imagery to the relief workers. According to manufacturer specification Huginn X1 uses advanced technologies including GPS, live video streaming and FLIR thermal camera.


Huginn X1

Huginn X1

According to Andrew Schroeder from Direct Relief, Huginn X1 was useful in scouting the surrounding terrain in order to find out most suitable and convenient supply routes. On the other side personnel of UNDAC stated that they can not even imagine very first response action without UAS.

Huginn X1 in action

Huginn X1 in action

However several critical points could be listed when it comes to the events like this:

  1. Immediate assessment – The first few hours after disasters are the most crucial moments for disaster response. But poor assessment of the affected areas can significantly reduce the effectiveness of these operations and even endanger aid workers. Drones can be deployed for immediate assessment of disaster situations, providing detailed information to first-responders like local governments and humanitarian groups. Information is key to disaster response and mobilization.
  2. Strategic planning – Following the initial assessment phase, the information gathered will prove helpful in crafting an effective strategic plan in responding to disasters. Scores of international aid groups and partner governments have continually extended their help to the country given the scale of devastation Haiyan brought — including the information gathered by the drones in the plans will make relief and response operations more effective.
  3. S&R operations – The Huginn X1 drone is equipped with high-definition video and is capable of providing a live feed for the controller, making assessment and response real-time. The device can also produce thermal images, essential for finding people alive during the search and rescue operations. According to officials: “The first 72 hours of search and rescue after the disaster is very important. That’s the only time that you have a big chance to find people, living ones, and save them“
  4. Protecting aid workers – Given serious problems with transport, drones enabled mapping, without actually sending people out, which allowed for regular information loops on damage, needs estimation and movement of teams out the affected areas. In the early movements, there were a number of concerns over possible security situations which might put aid workers at risk. The drones helped essentially maintain watch over ongoing aid operations, which improved visibility into possible security situations.

Anyhow, the fact that a drone has been dispatched in order to facilitate aid distribution after catastrophic event that Philippines faced, should make even the biggest UAV skeptic reassess his or her standpoint.

Human Side(s) of UAVs – Future Concepts

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.


Couple of days ago, I stumbled upon an article describing the potential future use of drones. It actually fits perfectly in the Human Side(S) of UAV topic, and after writing about demining and search&rescue application, here comes the post about possible applications in the years to come.

1. Firestorm

Dronologista already wrote about UAV used for firefighting. This drone would act literally like a scout wandering through the building on fire searching for victims. It could be fully equipped with different sensors in order to detect dangerous gases and possible threats. Also camera can be attached, giving the firefighters both conventional and thermal image in real-time so they can asses situation more precise and make relevant decisions.  LEDs could also be attached to the drone so it can act like a beacon for victims and guide them through perilous conditions to safety.

2. Snow Cyclops

One of the most interesting application of  UAV, is to search for potential avalanche risk zones. This is of tremendous interest for the ski resorts, remote mountain villages and roadways. Also, if needed, it could carry a small amount of explosives in order to trigger the „controlled avalanches“ where needed. Moreover if avalanche strikes before it could have been forecasted, drones could be sent in search and rescue mission, something already described here. Last but not the least, it could carry small first aid kit in order to assist at the very first moments after the undesirable event. All in all a couple of drones could easily replace helicopter with a crew of several men in this kind of situations. From the cost perspective there is not much to say since it heavily supports drone’s side. About the human life in whole story it is not necessary to say anything.

Snow Cyclops

Snow Cyclops

3. The Cyclodrone

This concept is bit far-fetched, but hey, it just might work. This drone flies in front of a solo bike rider at a predetermined distance from the rider and while maintaining the connection with the rider’s mobile device. Large LEDs should make a visible warning to other riders, cars and any object that might affect rider’s path and safety.

AirDog, the drone that has been successfully funded on Kickstarter is a similar concept, but it follows the object (bike in this case). These two concepts could be combined and provide enhanced traffic safety while making breathtaking shoots of the movable objects. Actually, just imagine the “Le Tour de France” with these flyers instead of bunch of guys on motorcycles with huge cameras. That could give someone an idea…

Some of above mentioned concepts could become reality sooner, some later, but they are all products of a vivid imagination, and as Albert Einstein noted „Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere“ . It would not be surprise to see some of these solutions a reality in near future, where dronologista will wait and give you the latest update.

Pictures property of DesignMind