A Lancashire university is set to launch a pioneering drone which could help save lives.
The AeroSee has been devised by staff at the University of Central Lancashire and will be used by mountain rescuers to help find stranded walkers and climbers.
And members of the public are being invited to join the first live search and rescue trial operation from their desktop, tablets or phones.
Staff at the university’s Aerospace Centre and Media Innovation Studio worked together to develop the kit they are testing with Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team.
Next week the drone will be launched from the mountain rescue team’s rescue centre in Glenridding where it will go on a 20-minute flight covering 10 square kilometres in search of a missing hiker – planted by the research team. Images from AeroSee will be relayed to anyone logged onto the AeroSee web application.
As images are streamed to people’s computers, tablets and mobiles they will be able to tap or click on any area of the image where they think they may have spotted an injured person on the mountainside.
The ‘crowd sourced’ intelligence - which includes visual references and GPS location data - will be relayed to the team members back at the base who in a real life situation would be able to assess the image, and send the AeroSee back to take a closer look if they thought ‘crowd’ participants had identified a person in trouble on the hills.
Data provided by members of the public taking in the rescue operation will help the mountain rescue team target their resources more effectively, saving them time searching and enabling them to head straight to an injured climber.
Space and Aerospace Engineering Lead at UCLan Daren Ansell said: “The cost of this technology has come down and down in recent years which makes operations like this one economically viable.
“We also know how quickly AeroSee can cover a geographic area that might take a team a number of hours to search – speeding up the rescue operation can be critical particularly when injuries are severe or the weather conditions are poor.”
Paul Egglestone, director of the media innovation studio, added: “Drones get lots of bad press as they’re usually associated with civilian causalities in military theatres. They are just a tool and we are using AeroSee for peaceful purposes.
“The thing about our approach is that we’re inviting civic minded people to give up 20 minutes of their time to help save a life on the mountainside. Visit www.aerosee.org for more information.