Search and Rescue using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Authors:Ajay Bettadapura, Ajay Bettadapura, Jake Dayton, Mathew Gan, Hovig Yaralian
Mentor:Subodh Bhandari, Aerospace Engineering Professor, Cal Poly Pomona
Until now, manned airplanes and helicopters have been used for search and rescue missions and for surveillance of fire-, flood-, and earthquake affected areas. However, these missions are very expensive and pose threats to human pilots. Moreover, manned aircraft cannot be used during nighttime and adverse weather conditions. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVS) can reduce the cost of these missions without posing any risk to human pilots, while providing round the clock surveillance capability. Cal Poly Pomona is currently working on using UAVs for search and rescue missions. A Sig Kadet Senior UAV airplane has been equipped with an autopilot for autonomous waypoint navigation and a camera for target identification. Software is being developed with OpenCV for image processing, segmentation, and for identifying objects of interest. In order to provide targeted aerial assistance, an autonomous payload delivery algorithm has been developed. A flight management computer and drop mechanism has been integrated with a separate Sig Kadet Senior UAV. A payload delivery algorithm was programmed onto the flight management computer and linked to the drop mechanism. The flight management computer received telemetry from the autopilot as inputs to the payload drop algorithm to determine the position of the target relative to the aircraft. After calculating the release point, the algorithm triggered a payload release. The Sig Kadet Senior has demonstrated the deployment of a water bottle to a specified GPS coordinate. Future efforts will focus on integrating a wider variety of sensors, payloads, and platforms for improved search and rescue operations.