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System to quickly search for survivors after disasters

Researchers of the ITC Faculty of the University of Twente are working together with nineteen European partners to develop a system that quickly searches for the victims after disasters such as earthquakes and landslides. To achieve this, the research consortium combines data from, for instance, satellites, drones, robots and sensors able to detect mobile phones, and use this information to create a 3D image of the disaster site. Goal of the system is to help relief organizations dig as specifically as possible for injured victims, thereby saving lives.

The goal of the European project Inachus is to design a system that locates victims at the site of a disaster. Rescue operations can be faster and more efficient this way. Norman Kerle, ITC project coordinator: "Such a system does not exist yet. Currently, relief organizations use dogs and shovels to search for survivors. They start digging in the right place only if they're lucky."

The system that is to be developed uses, amongst other things, satellite information, models that show where people were probably located at the time of the disaster on the basis of existing data (population mapping), images from drones, robots that inspect the disaster site and maps and sensors that trace mobile phones. On the basis of all the collected data the system creates 3D reconstructions of the locations where it is most likely to find survivors. The system can analyse a disaster site the size of a city district. Relief organizations can use this system to more specifically search for survivors after a disaster.

ITC contribution
Within the project ITC focuses on the population mapping and the data gathered with drones. The ITC has a budget of 700,000 euros available, including almost 550,000 euros in EU subsidies. This amount is used for, amongst other things, the appointment of a doctoral candidate and at a later date for the development of training material. Kerle: "As soon as the system is ready, relief organizations have to trained to be able to use the system. At the ITC we are developing a type of manual to aid in this. Eventually it is the intention that relief organizations can take our system with them to every disaster site, no matter where it is located in the world." The total budget of the European budget adds up to over 14 million euros.

Twenty European parties from ten different countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Germany and France, are collaborating to develop this system. The project is being coordinated by the Greek Institute of Communication and Computer Systems. Work on the project has started recently and it will run for four years.

Note for the press
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