Dogs and drones are teaming up in Switzerland to help find missing people.
This week, the Swiss Society for Rescue Dogs (ReDog) announced a partnership with the Swiss Association of Civilian Drones (SVZD) to deploy thermal-imaging drones that will supplement the group’s search-and-rescue missions over unforgiving, mountainous terrain. In any given year, about 3,000 people go missing in Switzerland and SVZD president Ueli Sager is confident UAVs can boost the reach of canine ground patrols.
“Search and rescue is an area which, in the future, can greatly benefit from drones,” Sager said in a press release. “In cooperation with us, ReDog, with its experience and knowledge in dog-led searches, will be complemented by the technical skill and quality of our drone pilots.”
The SVZD is “committed to drones and their safety, acceptance in the population and integration into the airspace,” according to the group’s website (Google translated). “We represent the interests of pilots, operators, dealers and manufacturers in Switzerland in relation to authorities, other associations and international organizations.”
ReDog trains dogs to search for disaster survivors as well as those lost in the wilderness especially in the area around the Swiss Alps.
As ReDog president Romaine Kuonen explains, adding drones with thermal and night vision capabilities will improve the group’s ground-level efforts tremendously.
“Cooperation with the SVZD will now close this gap. Two large voluntary organizations are united in favor of missing people, which increases efficiency … In the event of an emergency, every minute counts,” Kuonen said (quote translated).
Switzerland is leading the way in UAS search-and-rescue innovation. Darius Merk, a physics student at École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne has developed an algorithm that could help drones better avoid obstacles and navigate in difficult environments to help reach victims of natural disasters.
The drone, developed as a master’s project at EPFL’s Laboratory of Intelligent Systems, can “see” via a multi-faceted vision system much like an insect and is autonomous.
Researchers with the University of Zurich, the Università della Svizzera italiana, and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland have created software that empowers drones to conduct autonomous searches as well as detect and follow forest or mountain paths used by hikers.