AvaDrone: An Autonomous Drone for Avalanche Victim Recovery

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AvaDrone: An Autonomous Drone for Avalanche Victim Recovery

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Title: AvaDrone: An Autonomous Drone for Avalanche Victim Recovery
Author: Dickensheets, Benjamin D. ORCID  0000-0002-3598-8085
Citation: Dickensheets, Benjamin D. 2015. AvaDrone: An Autonomous Drone for Avalanche Victim Recovery. Bachelor's thesis, Harvard College.
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Abstract: For the 179 Americans that are caught in avalanches each year, timely recovery often means the difference between life and death. The goal of this project was to design and build a prototype drone for a system to quickly and automatically locate a buried victim, using an on-board antenna to receive a signal from industry standard transmitting beacons. The design was based on a quad-rotor platform and uses Arduino hardware to receive a beacon signal and navigate the craft.

In broad strokes, this project is an effort to apply the new and exciting technology of hobby drones to the well-established application of avalanche victim recovery. Current avalanche beacon technologies suffer from challenges associated with user operation. Slow or untrained human searchers are poorly equipped to handle the challenges of a fast-paced search. The vision of an entirely autonomous solution to this problem has guided the project from its inception.

This idea has been little explored despite a proliferation of drone technology in recent years. On one hand, all of the pieces of the project already exist in one form or another. Avalanche beacon technologies continue to mature, as do hobby drones and their application. This project builds on precisely these preexisting pieces, to ask whether they can effectively work together to create something new.

Throughout the project, I ran into challenges and roadblocks of all kinds. Whenever possible, I looked toward existing solutions to guide my design decisions or to justify admitting defeat on a particular difficulty, in order to maintain my focus on the larger questions of how all of the pieces will work together. As I hope I have conveyed, the real contribution of this project is located at the intersection of these technologies, and it is there that I have focused my energies.

While much remains to be done on this project, the results that I have found all point to the viability of this project. This project isn’t close to being ready to actually rescue someone, but the pieces are all in place and ready for further development. More questions remain, but I hope that this work will help to propel avalanche recovery technologies into the future.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:14398525
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