Underwater Robot Deploys and Lifts Victims to the Surface When They’re Drowning in Pool or Lake

4th September, 2021.      //   Uncategorized  // 

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Nearly 420 people drowned in Germany in 2019, with the majority losing their lives in fresh water lakes, but also in swimming pools according to one German life-saving association . Many swimming pools in Germany don’t have enough trained lifeguards—and in many places, this skilled labor shortage is leading to closures. The solution could be a floating underwater rescue robot.

Now, a team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Systems Technology of Fraunhofer Institute for Optronic, System Technologies, and Image Exploitation (IOSB) is aiming to improve the situation with an aquatic robot that uses AI, the only one of its kind worldwide.

To develop the autonomous device, scientists have used their years of expertise in the area of underwater robotics  that will assist lifeguards and rescue swimmers in emergencies.

Surveillance cameras mounted on the swimming pool’s ceiling to recognize when someone is in danger. It registers the movement patterns and position of the drowning person in the pool, and send the coordinates to the robot. It is safely stored away from prying eyes in a docking station on the swimming pool floor, which opens in an emergency.

Once the vehicle has reached its destination, it locates the endangered person and carries them to the surface. A mechanism for fixing the rescuee in place prevents lifeless bodies from sliding down as they surface. This mechanism can also be mounted on other underwater vehicles.

Successful open-water testing

To prove its visibility underwater, drones and zeppelin systems take on the task of the surveillance cameras. The underwater vehicle must be equipped with acoustic sensors instead of optical ones. Sound wave echoes can be used to determine people’s positions and orientation so precisely that the robot can autonomously head for the target person and pick them up. This has been proven to work in practice through the very impressive open-water testing.

during the testing, an 80-kilogram dummy was deposited at a depth of three meters. The robot then picked it up, secured it in place, brought it to the surface within a second, and carried it via the shortest route – a distance of 40 meters – to shore, where the rescue team was already waiting.

When the robot is informed of an emergency, a signal alerts the team immediately. The full rescue operation lasted just over two minutes. Casualties must be resuscitated within five minutes to avoid long-term damages of the brain.

The team aim to make it smaller, lighter, and more cost-effective than the current prototype, which is based on a pre-existing underwater vehicle.

The underwater vehicles have a very broad range of applications, such as detecting and verifying archaeological artifacts at the bottom of lakes—where fewer victims will end up, thanks to the new robot.