Detecting Heartbeats in Rubble: DHS and NASA Team up to Save Victims of Disasters
When natural disasters or man-made catastrophes topple buildings, search and rescue teams immediately set out to recover victims trapped beneath the wreckage. During these missions, time is imperative, and quickly detecting living victims greatly increases chances for rescue and survival.
“Testing proved successful in locating a VA-TF1 member buried in 30 feet of mixed concrete, rebar, and gravel rubble from a distance of over 30 feet,” said John Price, S&T program manager. “This capability will complement the current Urban Search and Rescue tools such as canines, listening devices, and video cameras to detect the presence of living victims in rubble.”
In disaster scenarios, such as earthquakes and tornadoes, the wreckage is made up of twisted and shattered materials. Radar signals bounce back so signals are complex. “Isolating the relatively weak signal of a heartbeat within the noisy signals becomes a difficult task,” said Edward Chow, JPL program manager. “JPL's radar expertise helps in this challenge.”
JPL uses advanced data processing systems to pick out faint signals. The microwave radar technology is sensitive enough to distinguish the unique signature of a human's breathing pattern and heartbeat from other living creatures. The advantage of this technology is in allowing first responders to quickly ascertain if a living victim is present in the debris. The technology is sensitive enough that victims, whether conscious or not, can easily be detected, which helps responders decide the most efficient course of action.Detecting Heartbeats in Rubble: DHS and NASA Team up to Save Victims of Disasters
“It is anticipated that a commercialized technology could be ready to be used in search and rescue operations as early as spring 2014,” Price said.