ResponDrone receives €8.3 million to develop situational awareness system for first responders

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More than 200 people were killed by natural disasters during 2017 in Europe alone. Beyond the loss of life, natural disasters also have a severe economic impact. Since 1980, EU member states have lost over €360 billion due to extreme weather and climate events.

When the first report is received on a large-scale disaster, it is crucial to obtain a comprehensive situational awareness of the situation. If a disaster occurs in a large area, emergency response teams require an extensive understanding of the crisis area. In addition, they would need to obtain data on the status of critical structures, power grids, road access, the exact location of victims and environmental threats.

Collecting, processing, sharing and displaying this information as fast as possible in emergency cases is challenging, especially when no reliable communications infrastructure is available.

Quickly gaining an understanding of the situation, including the location of survivors, deployment and direction of first responder teams, and monitoring of mission progress resources is of crucial importance. Therefore, the more quickly a comprehensive overview of the area of disaster can be provided and a communications network be established, the faster first responders can provide a coordinated response.

In order to try and tackle this issue, The European Union (EU) and the Korean government have awarded €8.3 million to the international ResponDrone consortium, which is composed of 20 partners from 12 countries, to develop and apply a situational awareness system in emergency situations, providing critical information and communication services to first responders.

The project received €8 million from the EU through the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme and an additional €300,000 from the Korean government.

The three-year project aims to develop an integrated solution for first responders to easily enhance their situation assessment capacity and their own protection. This will, together with other means, include the integration of a fleet of drones that can be operated by a single pilot, during multiple synchronized missions to enhance their situation assessment capacity and protection.

The ResponDrone system will simplify and accelerate situation assessment, information sharing, decision-making and operations management. Moreover, it will deliver high quality information to any involved control center through an intelligent, accessible web-based system, which can be operated from a remote site. In addition, it will serve as an on-demand airborne communications network to allow people on the ground to communicate with the command center in case of cellular coverage collapse.

“By using the innovative ResponDrone system, emergency response teams will be able to respond more rapidly, effectively and efficiently to an emergency or disaster and therefore save more lives,” said ResponDrone project manager Max Friedrich from the German Aerospace Center (DLR). “The fleet of drones will provide enhanced capabilities to support mission assessment and search and rescue operations, as well as forest fire fighting.”

Deployment of the ResponDrone system is very simple. Each fleet of drones will be operated by a single pilot, instead of that each drone being operated by a single pilot. To ensure seamless uptake and adoption by first responder organizations, ResponDrone will be fully integrated and embedded within the current processes and procedures of real emergency response agencies and teams.

ResponDrone will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of civil protection operations as it will consider the first responder’s total mission time, cost, and success level.

The ResponDrone project will hold its opening conference in Madrid, Spain May 20–22, 2019.