Steps towards S&R in Japan

We seem to have a lot of natural disasters here in Japan (eruptions, mud slides, earthquakes) and like everywhere else we are counting on UAVs to help out in these situations by producing 3D maps to improve "situational awareness" so that rescue efforts can be used effectively and eventually to actually find people.

The video above (and below) are some more steps towards this by EnRoute (3DR retailer in Japan) and Tohoku University that I work with on Search & Rescue projects.  Some of the important bits:

  • Test Site was Sakura-jima in Kyushu, Japan.  It's an active volcano but shouldn't be confused with On-take that claimed 57 lives a couple of months ago.
  • EnRoute QC 730 quadcopter which uses 340KV motors and massive 6-cell Lipo to achieve over 40min of flight time under normal conditions
  • ArduCopter 3.2 on Pixhawk
  • Mapping mission took 20min, the copter traveled a total of 8km including a 1.2km climb at 10m/s.  The battery was at 56% after the mission was complete.
  • X-Link video system (1.2Ghz)
  • 2.4Ghz telemetry system based on ZigBee with very high gain antenna but no antenna tracker.  You can see the telemetry connection remained pretty solid the entire time which was a major improvement over previous tests.  Japan has strict regulations which don't allow the use of the RFD900.
  • The camera was a GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition
  • The 3d reconstructions software was Agisoft Photoscan which does a good job of stitching together the images even when there's a large change in altitude.

My hope is that over the next year or so we get to the point where we can:

  • Include a companion computer with a modified version of Tridge's Outback challenge software to automatically recognize people or objects that stand-out from the background.
  • Send groups of vehicles (probably mostly copters) to cover more area in the same amount of time without adding anymore people to the flight crew.
  • Incorporate IR cameras for night-time flights because rescue efforts currently seem once it gets dark leaving people stranded on the mountain until morning.
  • Get the vehicles travelling closer to the face of the mountain using LIDAR sensors and Terrain Following.
  • Find people by narrowing in on their cell phone signals (?)

Thanks to EnRoute and Tohoku University for including ArduCopter and the APM/Pixhawk in their S&R efforts.

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  • Hello. Sorry to dig out such an old post.

    Any idea on how to connect xbee for the telemetry. Thinking of replacing the SiK Radios. 

    I tried testing with XCTU, it works. However, when i connect to pixhawk and mission planner, it shows fail to receive heartbeat.

    Can anyone tell me what happen?

  • Developer


    Thanks for the feedback.

    The "failsafe" message comes from the radio failsafe (previously called "throttle" failsafe) and can be set-up to not trigger if the mission is in AUTO mode.  This allows the vehicle to fly outside of TX/RX range during a mission.

  • Almost the entire flight was in fail safe?! How this function is programming? They fly with fail safe in the telemetry?

  • Yes, a combination of both types of aircraft would give you a well rounded platform for your work. Thanks for sharing.

  • Amazing jobs Randy (and teams)! We just entered "this realm" using it for SAR and prevention towards "natural disaster" as there are lots of active volcanoes in Indonesia and land slides due to the heavy rain and deforestation. Last week there have been around 90 casualties in the big landslides in Java. Any chance to have a forum/discuss more about this Randy (and teams) ? Thanks and keep the good work!

  • +Randy, great job and thanks for sharing. The stitching software you can't remember might be Agisoft Photoscan.

  • Mahalo Randy for sharing. I'm doing similar work in Hawaii with fixed-wing and multi-rotors for monitoring a lava flow heading into town, we have an active FAA COA for a disaster impacted area from Kilauea volcano. It's been quite an experience operating near active lava and with the LOS requirement means we have to be close to the active front ;)

  • Congratulations to Randy and Izu-san. This is great work on serious mission by ArduCopter in Japan.

    The quad you have employed on this mission has ridiculously huge propellers on it.  

    How do you consider alternative air frame such a fixed wing and or VTOL for a long duration flight?

  • Amazing work Randy. I've never taken multi rotors that seriously for S&R due to the short flight time. I stand corrected. Keep up the great work.

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