Self-driving drones can help the emergency services save lives

Press release 23.05.2018

“We’re developing a technical platform that gives drones the possibility of sensing their surroundings and manoeuvring with extremely high precision and safety. This type of system will be crucial in the future when we want to use drones in close proximity to people, for example in applications linked to healthcare and the emergency services” says Mats Sällström, CEO of Everdrone.

With help from autonomous drones, the emergency services could more quickly gain an overview of fire and accident sites and save valuable time in their rescue efforts. In a new innovation project, financed by Vinnova, Everdrone will be partnering with Chalmers Industriteknik and Räddningstjänsten Storgöteborg to develop an advanced navigation system for autonomous drones.

The emergency services recognise that drones have significant potential to make rescue efforts more effective at fire and accident sites. By obtaining a quick, clear overview of the situation, rescue efforts can be better coordinated and of more benefit to both people and society. But today’s navigation systems for drones are relatively simple, and primarily use GPS for positioning, which gives neither sufficiently high precision nor the active safety required for manoeuvring in proximity to buildings and people.

In the project, Everdrone together with Chalmers Industriteknik and Räddningstjänsten Storgöteborg will develop and demonstrate a navigation system for autonomous drones that can be used by the emergency services during observation of a fire or accident site. Demonstrations will take the form of a prototype drone equipped with software and sensors.

“By combining advanced depth sensors with intelligent software, we can add a level of safety to industrial drones that doesn’t currently exist. We can construct an autonomous flying vehicle that acts on its own initiative and thus contributes to many socially beneficial functions in the society”, says Mats Sällström.

The system will be able to ensure that the airspace is free of obstacles and other vehicles and to calculate the safest possible flight path. The drone will then be able to navigate itself to the accident site. The navigation system will be developed and tested up to summer 2019.

“We are proud to be participating in this project”, says project manager Shahin Atai. “Here at Chalmers Industriteknik, we strive to find the business and social benefits that new technology can bring. Being able to save human life and make the work of the emergency services even more effective by means of artificial intelligence and more intelligent drones feels like a fantastic challenge.”

The project is part of Vinnova’s investment in the drones of the future. A total of 23 projects are being financed for a total of MSEK 20. A demonstration day is planned for May 2019 during which the projects and new solutions will be presented.