Researchers from Germany’s NEC Laboratories have developed a platform that uses drones as mobile base stations for locating survivors of natural disasters.

The platform, dubbed Search-And-Rescue DrOne (SARDO), could potentially serve as a stand-in for cell tower infrastructure damaged or destroyed during a natural disaster to help locate natural disaster survivors using their cell phone signals.

Sweeping over large swathes of land impacted by natural disaster, SARDO conducts time of flight measurements and applies algorithms to those measurements to calculate the location of survivors. Once located, the drones would close in on the survivor’s position, thereby improving survivor location calculations.


According to the NEC team, the platform can also detect survivor locations even if those survivors are on the move.

During testing of the system, the NEC team determined that SARDO could narrow down the location of disaster displaced survivors to within a few tens of meters in under five minutes per victim.

The research appears in the journal IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing.

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