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Technology allows drones to differentiate living from dead people

Researchers at the University of South Australia and Middle Technical have developed special camera technology that allows the drone to distinguish between a dead or far-off person. The research prepares drones for action in disaster-stricken areas by flying over an area, scanning and looking for vital signs.

UniSA professor Javaan Chahl and Doctor Ali Al-Naji have created special software that can read and identify the vital conditions of people up to 6 meters away. The installed camera can detect the slightest movement in the trax region of some, which may mean that the sighted person is breathing or with an active heartbeat. Even with limited exposure of the victim's upper body, this technology should be very helpful as drones can reach hard-to-reach locations by the rescue team.

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Some other studies done in the area use temperature and skin color variations, which, according to the researchers, are less accurate than the technology they are developing now. Chahl and Al-Naji managed to gain prominence in 2017 with an innovation based on temperature and skin changes at a distance of three meters. At the time, they say that the system was very limited and required that the person was standing next to the drone, something that made it impossible for the gadget to work.

Even with bodies that can be recognized with thermal cameras, in hot weather situations the search gets extremely complicated, something that has required an enhancement to the version now.

"This study, based on cardiopulmonary movement, the first of its kind, was conducted with eight people (four of each sex) and a mannequin lying on the floor in different positions. Videos were taken from daylight subjects, up to 6 meters at relatively low wind conditions for one minute at a time, with the camera successfully distinguishing between living bodies and the dummy. "Javaan Chahl, Professor at the University of South Australia

You can read more about this study here in the journal Remote sensing.

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