Underwater robot brings drowning people safely to shore

The number is somewhat frightening: in 2020 alone, 378 people drowned in Germany. Without the deployment of lifeguards and lifeguards, it would probably have been significantly more. But the helpers cannot monitor all bathing areas around the clock. Especially since the lifeguards are also struggling with recruitment problems. This is not unproblematic. For some time now, statistics have indicated that children are becoming less and less able to learn to swim. The problem has also been exacerbated by the corona pandemic and the partially closed swimming pools as a result. A technology developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Ilmenau in cooperation with water rescue experts in Halle an der Saale could now help. This is an underwater robot that automatically recognizes drowning people and brings them to shore.

Image: S.Thomas/ Water Rescue Hall

The technology recognizes drowning people fully automatically

The rescue robot is based on a frame ninety centimeters long and half a meter wide. The batteries for the drive and various cameras and sensors are located on it. This allows the robot to navigate independently under water. In addition, it has a fixation device with which it holds the person to be rescued. This is then first transported safely over the water surface and then brought to land. An alarm signal also sounds at the beginning of the operation. Ideally, human helpers will be available on the bank to take care of further medical care. But the real innovation is the technology that can detect drowning without human assistance. This is not easy at all. Because unlike what is often seen in films, drowning people rarely call for help or wave their arms. Instead, most people drown quietly.

The cameras are kept in the air by drones

It is therefore often difficult for inexperienced people to recognize the emergency in good time. However, there are typical postures and movement patterns that indicate danger. If the body of water is now continuously monitored using cameras, the images can be evaluated automatically. In an emergency, the rescue robot is then dispatched. In swimming pools, the pools can be monitored by cameras on the ceiling. In the case of bathing lakes and other outdoor bodies of water, on the other hand, drones or balloons are used to provide the necessary images. During a test in the Hufeisensee in Halle, the technology worked perfectly. The robot rescued an eighty-kilogram dummy from a depth of three meters, brought it to the surface within seconds and then returned to shore. All in all, the robot needed about two minutes for the rescue.

Via: MZ Hall

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