Portable radar system to find victims under rubble unveiled

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PASADENA (CNS) – A radar system that can detect the heartbeats and breathing of victims buried under rubble after a major disaster — using technology developed at Jet Propulsion Laboratory for tracking spacecraft — was unveiled today by NASA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials.

The portable radar, dubbed Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response, or FINDER, can detect people buried as deep as 30 feet under crushed materials, according to NASA and JPL. It can also find people behind 20 feet of concrete and from a distance of about 100 feet in open spaces.

“Detecting small motions from the victim’s heartbeat and breathing from a distance uses the same kind of signal processing as detecting the small changes in motion of spacecraft like Cassini as it orbits Saturn,” according to James Lux, task manager for FINDER at JPL.

The radar system was demonstrated for the media at a DHS training facility in Virginia. The system is expected to undergo more testing by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through next year.

“The ultimate goal of FINDER is to help emergency responders efficiently rescue victims of disasters,” said John Price of DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate in Washington, D.C. “The technology has the potential to quickly identify the presence of living victims, allowing rescue workers to more precisely deploy their limited resources.”

The system involved the beaming of microwave signals into piles of debris and analyzing patterns of signals that bounce back, according to NASA. In tracking spacecraft, the time it takes for the signal to get back reveals how far away the craft is.

JPL scientists developed advanced formulas used to isolate tiny signals from a person’s moving chest so they can be detected in tangled piles of wreckage left by earthquakes or tornadoes.

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