An underwater rescue robot —designed to support rescuers attempting to save drowning people— has been developed by researchers from the “Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB”, in Germany, in collaboration with Halle’s rescue service.
According to the German rescuers’ association, around 420 people drowned in Germany in 2019, with the majority of them losing their lives in lakes. However, accidents also took place in swimming pools. One of the reasons for this is the lack of trained lifeguards to monitor the pools; and this is what researchers hope to change with this robot, who have already designed an award-winning autonomous submarine, the “DEDAVE”.
“There are typical attitudes that you can use to identify when someone is in danger”,
said computer scientist Helge Renkevich, who led the project, which was funded by the “German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi)”.
Special surveillance cameras on the roof record the movements and location of the person drowning in the pool and send the coordinates to the robot, normally located on a special base at the bottom of the pool, which opens in case of emergency; once the vehicle reaches its destination, it locates the person in danger and transports it to the surface. It has a special mechanism, which holds the person in place while emerging, which can be placed in other underwater vehicles.
In swimming pools the role of cameras is taken over by “drones” and “zeppelin” systems.
“These “drones” and “advertising balloons” can be easily equipped with cameras”,
Renkevich said. For rescues in pools with limited visibility, the underwater vehicle should be equipped with acoustic sensors instead of optical ones.
Tests have been carried out successfully on Lake Houfeisensee. An 80kg doll was placed at a depth of three metres and the robot was able to catch it, secure it in place and quickly take it to the surface, later transporting it to shore, 40 metres away, where rescuers had been waiting, who had been informed by the robot. The whole process, according to Renkevich, lasted two minutes.
This model, equipped with batteries, motor, cameras and sensors, is 90 cm long, 50 cm high and 50 cm wide. The researchers aim to further reduce the size and develop different versions for use in swimming pools and lakes.
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