Drones never had much of a good reputation because of its involvement in the United States military but now, it looks like it will change its image in a completely new way as researchers develop an inexpensive drone technology that could save lives.
According to a report on CNN Money, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Lab (GRASP) are trying to develop a technology wherein drones can be used to rescue people from situations that put their lives in danger.
Unknown to many, technology that usually lie around your house or your workplace can be used to create a specialized drone for search-and-rescue operations. In fact, you may not know that the hardware being used by your smartphones, tablets and laptops can be developed to create a 3D mapping technology.
This mapping technology can then create a virtual landscape of buildings, hallways and rooms. The GRASP researchers meant for these tiny drones to have spy cameras. But instead of using them for military purposes, these drones would easily navigate obstacles and map rooms, hallways and possible exit routes.
One of the most ubiquitous technologies we now have in our homes is the Xbox Kinect from Microsoft. Unknown to many of us, researchers have found a way to use Kinect in generating a 3D map with a three- to five-meter range capacity. This will be very useful when one wants to go through obstacles and other debris.
Vijay Kumar, a professor who works under the GRASP project, said that it is fairly easy for engineers, scientists and researchers to find low-cost and power-efficient processes because of the surge of mobile technology in the last few years.
The same technology we now enjoy with our smartphones and tablets is similar to the one being used to power and operate Drones, Kumar added. Some of the latest devices we hold in our hands have components that can sense, process and control these aerial vehicles.
The drones currently being developed by GRASP contain and use the same technology we have inside our smartphones. Can you imagine the possibilities? A simple smartphone processor, locating device and even its mapping technology can now be used to create something that can save lives in the future.
Basically, the hardware used in making these unmanned aerial vehicles is not something you should have to go to the ends of the earth to find. It’s in your house, your workplace and your local hardware store.
Commercially, these drones are not yet available. But Kumar’s team at the university has already tested these aerial vehicles during the search-and-rescue operations in Japan after the tsunami that hit it in 2011.
Small in size, these drones can travel together, hold miniature cameras, go inside dilapidated and collapsed buildings and infrastructures, map routes and look for victims. And although they cannot be operated commercially until 2015, the interests on these vehicles continue to climb since about 80 universities and law enforcement groups applied for a license to operate them last year. This only showed that we are now almost open to the possibility of these drones’ ability to save lives during disaster-related situations.