Swiss researchers develop ‘intelligent’ rescue drone

Swiss researchers develop ‘intelligent’ rescue drone

A rescue drone developed by Swiss researchers can autonomously recognize and navigate through forest trails better than a human, thanks to its sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI).

Thousands of people get lost in the tick forests and mountain areas of Switzerland every year, and police records show that authorities receive as many as 1,000 calls from injured or lost hikers annually. The ‘intelligent’ rescue drones will be able to scour forests and work alongside humans in search operations.

University of Zurich researcher Davide Scaramuzza, who led the project for the Dalle Molle Institute for AI, acknowledged that drones are already being used in search operations, but current drones are not capable of flying autonomously in difficult surroundings, such as dense forests.

Announcing the AI-equipped small quadrocopter, Scaramuzza added, “In these [Complex environments] environments, any little error may result in a crash, and robots need a powerful brain in order to make sense of the complex world around them.”

Fellow researcher Alessandro Giusti explained that the new drone uses AI algorithms to interpret the images to identify man-made trails; instead of relying on sensors. The AI steers the drone in a direction only if the trail is visible.

When the drone was tested on a novel trail, it was able to find the right path in 85 per cent of the cases, while humans could find the right path only in 82 per cent of the cases. However, the researchers admitted that it sill required improvements.