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Using Drones to Save Lives

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

The word drone tends to invoke a picture of fear and death that is not undeserved given the thousands of lives that have been lost to military drones over the last decade. As a result the idea of drones in the US tends to get a bit of push-back when a practical application is involved. Amazon announced nearly two years ago their intention to do rapid 30-minute or less delivery via drones, but has only just gotten approval a few months ago to begin testing their prototypes. They had to do some testing in Canada due to the restrictions put in place by the FAA. In 2012 the FAA was mandated to update their policy on drones by Sep 30th, 2015, a deadline which--as could be expected--has come and past without any progress made. 

 

The FAA getting everything straightened out is expected to take some time yet, but a new company called Mountain Drones is already in preliminary testing at Telluride Mountain resort. In a nutshell the plan is to drop explosives from the drone onto the snowpack for avalanche mitigation. This keeps ski patrollers out of the danger zone and saves lives. While the FAA continues to develop their plan and Mountain Drones continues to test their product, they're going to be dropping dummy explosives this winter. The technology involved is pretty cool. It's not just a simple fly out and drop device, it uses a good deal of sophisticated sensors to achieve it's goal. 

 

The drones include sensors to detect the water content and the depth of snow to help analyze potential avalanche risks. (The company is also exploring using this technology to help municipalities in places like California and Colorado to make decisions about water use planning by giving them estimates of snow melt-off.) The drones can be programmed to fly a route dictated by GPS, so even in white out conditions where the pilot couldn't see, the drone could be sent out to do work. According to Outside Magazine:

 

Quote:
 The Mountain Drones team’s latest prototype, the 35-pound Prospect, uses components from ten different drone manufacturers. “We have the best propellers from one, the best motors from another, and the best frame from a third,” says Holbrook. “We’ve got the biggest, baddest drone there is.” 

The Prospect has eight 30-inch-long propellers and a seven-foot wingspan. It flies for 45 minutes on one battery and can carry half its weight in dynamite, enough to clear five avalanche paths in one flight.

 

The drones are coming; personal use drones will be able to take pictures and video as you ski, leading to potential hazards from crashing drones. These drones however, look to save lives. 

post #2 of 16

dropping explosives remotely in white out conditions - what could possible be wrong about that?

post #3 of 16

From the Drone for avy control article.

 

"Onboard sensors will calculate the snow-water equivalent—a measure of the snowpack’s water content—and depth, allowing patrollers to identify persistent weak layers and breaking points and helping them determine where to make drops. "

 

 

 

Sorry but such technology does not currently exist with that type of accuracy

 

.

post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Studebaker Hawk View Post

From the Drone for avy control article.

"Onboard sensors will calculate the snow-water equivalent—a measure of the snowpack’s water content—and depth, allowing patrollers to identify persistent weak layers and breaking points and helping them determine where to make drops. "



Sorry but such technology does not currently exist with that type of accuracy

.

Yeah, that set off my ######## detector.

Do you suppose drones can do ski cuts and identify hang-fire crowns?

mod note: language edited ####
post #5 of 16
Well it's not completely out there so dont be too cynical. There are airborne ground penetrating radar and it should be able to spit out data that with a few algorithms can provide info to the humans that estimates snow statistics. Not something to soley rely on but another tool in the tool box. Beats them eyeballing it and saying looks like a lot of snow fell up in the cornice.
Even if it just takes extra pictures for patrol that might be useful

Its won't be always accurate but it can correlate. Think how a fitbit can estimate exercise from just some motion detection You can come up with all the scenarios how its not accurate like doesnt work for people in wheelchairs but it doesn't need to be always accurate, use it when it mskes sense.
post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by raytseng View Post

Well it's not completely out there so dont be too cynical. There are airborne ground penetrating radar and it should be able to spit out data that with a few algorithms can provide info to the humans that estimates snow statistics. Not something to soley rely on but another tool in the tool box. Beats them eyeballing it and saying looks like a lot of snow fell up in the cornice.
Even if it just takes extra pictures for patrol that might be useful

Its won't be always accurate but it can correlate. Think how a fitbit can estimate exercise from just some motion detection You can come up with all the scenarios how its not accurate like doesnt work for people in wheelchairs but it doesn't need to be always accurate, use it when it mskes sense.

I would agree. There have been "drones" in the air for decades. RC planes and helicopters would qualify. For some reason, it has never been an issue until the last few years. The range and stability of modern quad copters can be a good tool for ski patrol or DOT workers with slide mitigation. Gaz-x, Avalaunchers and Howitzers will still do most of the work, but it would be nice to have an option for dropping hand charges if conditions are too sketchy to have a human in there digging a pit. I lost a patroller friend to a secondary avalanche after a hand charge he threw set off an adjacent pitch and that pitch had released during work earlier that morning. Having a look at that pitch after the initial work had been done may have raised a red flag that some instability still lingered and even more work needed to be done. I hope they can work out the software and imaging to make this a critical tool in the box.

post #7 of 16

For placing a charge on a slope under good conditions, yes. I could seen a Drone having some positive uses. Especially during times of high instability.

 

But after the charge goes off, then what?

 

A human will still need to go out on that slope and get a feel for the snow.

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Studebaker Hawk View Post
 

For placing a charge on a slope under good conditions, yes. I could seen a Drone having some positive uses. Especially during times of high instability.

 

But after the charge goes off, then what?

 

A human will still need to go out on that slope and get a feel for the snow.

Yes, you are right. A human will have to check that slope and if the imaging system does it's job as stated, the data can be relayed directly to the patroller and the human that has to ski it will have more information than he or she has today. Just a thought.

post #9 of 16

Tangentially on topic: I can see a portable mini drone being an emergency tool to more quickly locate beacon signals in avalanche situations. A small, inexpensive, packable drone (does this exist?) with a beacon receiver that communicates back to an operator could save valuable time in finding the approximate location of someone who's buried. 

post #10 of 16

Packable drones definitely exist. The most convincing one I've seen, from a packing standpoint, is the Sprite, which folds into a tube that looks like it'd fit pretty easily in a backpack: 

 

http://www.ascentaerosystems.com/sprite

 

Not really "inexpensive" by any stretch of the word, but cheaper than an airbag pack. 

 

I think I like your idea of a receiver drone even better than the bomb drones, which sound interesting but questionable. 

 

On a related note, this project was part of the Telluride Venture Accelerator, which seems like a pretty cool initiative to help develop startups with a focus on skiing/mountain life/fitness/travel/etc.

 

http://www.tellurideva.com/press/​

 

Press release of the 2015 class that includes Mountain Drones: http://www.tellurideva.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/TVA-2015-winner-PR-Final-final.pdf 

post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveJazz View Post

Tangentially on topic: I can see a portable mini drone being an emergency tool to more quickly locate beacon signals in avalanche situations. A small, inexpensive, packable drone (does this exist?) with a beacon receiver that communicates back to an operator could save valuable time in finding the approximate location of someone who's buried. 


 



This was my first thought when I saw this thread. I don't know enough about beacons and avalanche rescue techniques to know if this is feasible but thinking about a multiple burial situation over a large debris field I could see an idea like this saving many lives just getting the rescue on target faster.

It is so cool to live in this day and age where technology can have such a huge impact on our lives and safety for the better.
post #12 of 16

You guys did see that the article was for a 35lb beast.   I could see they program this sucker to do a recon every bluebird morning as soon as there's enough light.  

Then Patrol can take the images and discuss the plan for the day (while they swap or recharge the batteries), including sending the thing back out again to drop the bombs.

post #13 of 16

Bluebird mornings when you are doing avalanche hazard reduction are somewhat rare. They do happen but your scenario is kind of flawed.

 

The idea is to be at the top of routes at first light to allow control teams plenty of time to work at their pace so that you can have terrain safe and ready to open by 9-10:00.

 

As for using a beacon search, how do you mark the pinpoint location as to where the victim is buried? You need a fairly exact location. Unless there is a hazard to the rescuers you want people on the snow with probes and shovels.

 

I could see this being used to check a large area to see it there are signals or multiple signals and send rescuers in that direction and to be able to cross off areas where victims are not located.

 

Keep in mind,  a beacons range is kind of limited. 45-60 meters at best under optimal conditions.

post #14 of 16

I could see it being used in conjunction with beacons, not in place of them, and probably with a purpose-built matching beacon. So instead of relying on you to sweep the area manually with a beacon, the drone could auto-hone on the victim's signal, triangulate it and then direct you with distance and direction on your beacon. Or it could just hover overhead and let you get in the general area and then use your beacon like normal. 

 

It'd have to be fast to deploy, but I could see how it could theoretically make finding victims faster, especially in a multi-person burial. 

post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeUT View Post
 

I could see it being used in conjunction with beacons, not in place of them, and probably with a purpose-built matching beacon. So instead of relying on you to sweep the area manually with a beacon, the drone could auto-hone on the victim's signal, triangulate it and then direct you with distance and direction on your beacon. Or it could just hover overhead and let you get in the general area and then use your beacon like normal. 

 

It'd have to be fast to deploy, but I could see how it could theoretically make finding victims faster, especially in a multi-person burial. 

 

Good thoughts.Thumbs Up

post #16 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post
 
....
Do you suppose drones can do ski cuts and identify hang-fire crowns?

 

No, but I bet sharks with frikin laser beams could do ski cuts.

"I got one simple request."

"Can you remind me what I pay you people for?"

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