A drone that searches for humans by its screams looks like something out of some movie independent horror film with dubious budget, but in this case, it's a real project driven by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Ergonomics and Information Processing (FKIE), Germany.

The premise, luckily, only scares the name. The application of the project, nicknamed “Crow's Nest”, intends to be much more altruistic: the idea is to create a drone capable of searching for disaster victims by screaming, whether people who ended up trapped in rubble or were not noticed by rescue workers in the ground.


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Researchers in Germany want to create a drone that searches for you by your screams in order to save disaster victims
Special drones could bring sound detection capability to locate disaster victims, according to German researchers. Image: Josh Sorenson/Unsplash

“Our project is ongoing, so we are still doing a lot of testing. We have already succeeded in detecting and locating impulsive sounds [screams] with and without tilt and within the scope of the drone,” project leader Macarena Varela said in a press release.

“We are going to test the system in an active drone to measure impulsive sounds, and process the data through different methods to also estimate the geographic position of each sound”, he adds.

In 2020, we had five earthquakes of magnitude 6 or higher, resulting in the death of approximately 180 people. Although it is not possible to say how many of these deaths were of unfound victims, it is to be expected that survivors trapped in rubble will seek help. However, as the that voice tends to bounce off walls and other surfaces, chances are high that it seems to come from another direction – that's when they're heard.

The research led by Varela has the potential to save lives. Within the sonic complexity of a disaster, a device capable of isolating specific sounds to search for victims would certainly be of great help – especially considering that drones have the ability to reach places humans cannot, or would take too long.

The “Crow's Nest” project has not yet been flight-tested, but its current progress is expected to be presented at the Acoustic Society of America meeting this week.

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