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Emergency rescue missions performed by helicopter present many challenges related to weather conditions. The meteorological environment affects flight operation and pilot decision making process: restricted visibility caused by stormy clouds or difficulties in finding the best landing zones undermine the successful coordination of search and rescue procedures. In such cases, it’s paramount to improve the data quality concerning weather conditions to provide the pilot or the control station with a complete overview of the emergency situation to identify the best solutions to safely perform HEMS (Helicopter Emergencies Medical Services).
The HEMS+ Scout Drone project, funded by Sardinia Region via AREUS (Emergency Sardinia Region Agency), presents an innovative solution based on an exploration drone able to provide a solid support to optimal management of search and rescue missions in emergency situations.
Thanks to specific sensors, the drone analyzes the weather conditions and maps the land morphology to help rescue vehicles in selecting the best routes and landing. Thus, the pilot is able to reach the place of intervention with a higher safety level and a quicker response.
The helicopter crew can verify in advance the routes accessibility, especially focusing on the final operations related to landing or take-off that can be critical for the mission success. Moreover, if the field or weather conditions are difficult, the scout drone can identify possible alternative routes to avoid potentially critical situations and efficiently complete the rescue operations.
As soon as the emergency call is received, the operating station activates the drone with the aim at selecting the route that the device will follow to reach the accident site while providing the optimal indications to the rescue vehicle.
The rescue helicopter releases the scout drone near the affected area to perform land mapping operations. The device is in charge of detecting different kind of obstacles that can have a negative impact on low altitude navigation.
Thanks to built-in infrared cameras and sensors, the drone collects a series of measurements and information that are transmitted in real time to the rescue station.
This meteorological data includes, for example, wind intensity, clouds conformation and height, visibility status, presence of obstacles and identification of the optimal landing area.
Thanks to the indications provided by the drone, the pilot selects the best route to follow to ensure a safe landing near the crash site. The drone application improves a quick response and a prompt intervention by safely completing the mission.
The drone, tailor-made according to the requirements of the mission, is equipped with a payload consisting of numerous sensors and a computer powered to process all required information. The on-board sensors are able to collect data on the surrounding environment in different domains (infrared system, distance from obstacles, weather data, etc.). The information collected by the drone is transmitted to the crew on board the helicopter.
Thanks to a user-friendly interface, this application provides support to the pilot in the decision-making process related to the drone's mission based on atmospheric measurements and morphological data collected by the device. In addition to programming features, the technological system also consists of a communication section that manages the interactions between the drone, the crew on board the helicopter and the ground stations.
Dedicated planning algorithms are used to define the optimal routes even in the presence of meteorological events and unexpected obstacles identified by the explorer drone. These algorithms are also used to plan certified approach routes. In this case, the routes validity will be verified through the use of virtual reality simulation, combining the information collected in the field by the explorer drone with already available data relating to the morphology of the intervention area.
Detection of weather and environmental conditions on the area covered by helicopter rescue operations. The Scout Drone processes a series of measurements, such as wind direction and intensity, clouds composition and height, humidity temperature and degree. The whole set of data is transmitted in real time both to the control station and to the pilot with the aim at operating at best conditions even in critical situations.
Detection and verification of all the elements that may constitute a danger to the flight safety along a route designed to become a PinS (Point in Space) route. The Scout Drone supports the itinerary definition by carrying out a detailed mapping of the surrounding area with verification of possible obstacles for low altitude navigation.
The project is cofunded within POR FESR 2014 – 2020 programme with joint investment from EU, Italian State and Sardinia region under art. 115 EU Regulation 1303/2013 and 821/214 and in accordance with Sardinia Region purposes.
CUP/CIG ID: I64D20000000006/8451055F31
Start date: 16 November 2021
End date: 27 September 2022
Funded by: Sardinia Region within POR FESR 2014-2020 Asse Prioritario I Ricerca Scientifica, Sviluppo Tecnologico e Innovazione. Azione 1.3.1.
Partnership: Politecnico di Milano, TXT e-solutions spa, ANT-X