Researchers from the University of South Australia believe that deploying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in war zones and at natural disaster sites can be life saving.
In collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group, the university determined that the drones were able to successfully measure heart and respiratory rates while hovering three meters over the human test subject using remote-sensing imaging systems.
The drones were equipped with video capable of detecting changes in skin tone and even the smallest head movements of the test subject.
"This is the first time that video from a hovering UAV has been used to measure cardiorespiratory signals," Professor Chahl said.
According to a study of 15 healthy individuals, the results obtained by the drone were as accurate as traditional monitoring methods such as pulse oximeters, respiratory belts and ECGs.
Likewise, researchers believe that the technology can also be used in security applications in addition to health applications.
Researchers believe the technology could aid in the detection and capture of possible terrorists in public venues by simply measuring the heart rate anomalies of people in the space.
"A person who is about to engage in violence will probably have anomalous behavior and physiological signs," Chahl said. "They might be highly agitated or unnaturally calm and in many cases they might be under the influence of drugs. There is a good chance that our system can detect these anomalies. Obviously there are privacy and ethical issues around this technology that need to be resolved before it becomes common practice, but there is enormous potential to use machine vision systems to benefit society, particularly in the biomedical sphere. I expect we will be using this software in everyday life in the next decade."
The research is detailed in the journal Biomedical Engineering Online.