AI catamaran and autonomous drones are designed to help people in distress

Researchers at a technical university in Sweden have developed a fully autonomous system consisting of a catamaran and various drones that can help search for shipwrecked people. The project is primarily aimed at sea areas with refugees. Thanks to the technology, the search should be faster and more efficient and thus contribute to saving more people from drowning.

At the heart of the system at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg is the catamaran Seacat, which serves as the base for several aerial drones. Connected to the mainland via internet, the ship has a launch pad for fixed-wing drones.

Controlled by artificial intelligence, these fly over search areas in which it is likely to find people. If the drones locate objects in the water, this triggers the departure of a quadcopter on the catamaran. He takes photos of the site and transmits them to the rescue coordination center on land. In addition to photos, the quadcopter can also bring relief items to people in distress.

After their deployment and with an empty battery, the fixed-wing drones land in the water near the catamaran, which automatically picks them up again. After successful charging, they can start again. “So far we have managed to land a quadcopter on Seacat, and the winged drones are currently being tested,” says Ola Benderius, a professor in the Department of Automotive Engineering and Autonomous Systems and one of the leaders of the project. By the end of the project in September 2022, the system is to be completely assembled and tested.

The Seacat catamaran is already from another project in 2020/2021. It was developed by the university at the time to reduce the risks of inspections on the high seas. The system should enable checks on wind farms and ports, for example, even under adverse conditions.


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