Nowadays, we are inseparable from our phones. We take them everywhere and use them for fun or work; considering how many functions they have, we would be hard pressed to imagine leaving our phones behind. Taking advantage of this fact, a group of students working at EPFL’s Mobile Communications Laboratory created a drone that will locate survivors through their phones.
The flying drone designed by the students is able to locate survivors of natural disasters by tracking their phones. With Wi-Fi turned on, a mobile phone sends data packets at regular intervals. The strength of these signals depends on several factors. These factors can be the terrain, the weather, interference or the eventuality that the phone is buried under debris. Isolated, because of these factors, the signal cannot be captured. However, taken from multiple locations, it can be tracked with more ease.
This is where the drone comes in. The flying device uses a Wi-Fi antenna and floats above a chosen area several times. After doing so, it is able to triangulate the presence of the phone and hopefully its owner. Jonathan Cheseaux, the student who helped create the drone, has explained that eliminating weaker signals boots the accuracy of the system. The invention was able to pinpoint the location of mobile phones belonging to students residing in the EPFL campus with a high degree of accuracy.
“In the best tests we have performed, the place indicated was within 10 m (33 ft),” explained Cheseaux, who is also an amateur mountaineer, “The drone’s Wi-Fi antenna could be replaced by Avalanche Victim Detectors (DVA) which would enable the rapid and inexpensive deployment of the first avalanche searches.”
Those on ground can also use an interface to track the drone in real time. The phones that have been detected are shown as colored dots on a computer display. What do you think of this interesting system?