Improving the Usage of Unmanned Aircraft in Rescue Missions


A number of small, medium, and large companies have partnered with RWTH academic and research facilities for the VISION project, which is aiming to improve the usage of unmanned aircraft in rescue missions.

The VISION projectֹ will run for three years in total. During this time, the project consortium will work on finding solutions to safely and automatically operate drones that can also be used for sites located at greater distances, since the data will to a large extent be automatically processed, improving safety levels for the fire service. The project is mostly being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure as part of their mFUND initiative. The total cost of this project amounts to 3.8 million euros – 73 percent of this is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

Assessing Critical Situations

Using current local data for a quick and comprehensive assessment of critical situations ensures a high level of efficiency when deploying rescue teams. In future, a powerful VISION tiltwing aircraft will be available at a central location and sent out to greater distances in completely automated flight before the rescue team even arrives on the scene.

The team en route consequently receives initial information long before they actually arrive on the scene. Thanks to the drone, the exact location of the incident can be specified for the team, which not only saves them time – the presence of any harmful substances can also be detected by the drone and the relevant experts subsequently notified.

The project particularly focuses on the connectivity of the aircraft systems. For example, if rescue helicopters are in operation, the drones can safely integrate in the commonly used airspace thanks to a traffic management system. Once the rescue team is on the scene, VISION multicopters can also be put into operation. This device provides information on the situation inside the building, for example, its condition and any missing people present.

Both these VISION aircraft systems are operated on a completely automated basis and do not require a pilot, thereby enabling the fire service to concentrate solely on their rescue operation. The rescue team can rely on the standardized data acquisition, transference, and processing to provide the best possible solution. The data for this are transferred solely via a cellular network. A further focus of the VISION project is the total integration of all aircraft systems in the fire service’s current processes and data networks.

RWTH’s Institute for Flight System Dynamics is in charge of the authorization procedure and mission control of the highly efficient tilted wing aircraft system in the VISION project. The system has been developed for use beyond the operator’s line of sight and is therefore suitable for completely automated, pilotless flight. One of the greatest challenges this design faces is being able to guarantee safe navigation, even when satellite navigation system signals are disrupted.

Together with their project partners Deutsche Telekom, RWTH is working on the connectivity of VISION aircraft systems for the air traffic management system of German flight security. With project partner M4com on the other hand, the University is working on aircraft systems that are designed to implement specific requirements for rescue operations as defined by the Dortmund fire service. RWTH is also working with partners flyXdrive and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology to establish safe, and highly automated aircraft systems as well as developing collision-preventing systems.

The members of the consortium are as follows: flyXdrive GmbH, RWTH, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Deutsche Telekom AG, M4com System GmbH, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, and the Dortmund fire service.

About mFUND

The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure’s research initiative mFUND has provided funding for research and design projects involving data-based digital applications for Mobility 4.0 since 2016. In addition to this funding, mFUND encourages networking between politicians, economists, and researchers through different events and also supports access to the mCLOUD data portal.

Source: Press and Communications