Unmanned Aerial Systems to Support Rescue Personnel in Mass Casualty Incidents


An unmanned aerial vehicle developed at RWTH is capable of supporting rescue and medical personnel in mass-casualty incidents.


In Germany, at the scene of an accident involving many casualties, injured people are grouped into different categories to determine their priority of treatment. Important indicators in this process are the patients’ vital signs.

In a demonstration flight, staff from the Aachen Fire Department in Floriansdorf have now shown that an unmanned areal vehicle (UAV) developed at RWTH is capable of recording the vital parameters of accident victims with the help of cameras and radar technology. The devices are able to measure the heart and respiratory rates of the victims from a height of five to ten meters, for example, providing rescue workers with important information before they arrive at the scene of the accident.

The demonstration flight was launched by an emergency physician who had previously narrowed down the search area. The tilt-wing aircraft took off vertically, flew to the scene of the accident and, after tilting up the main wings while hovering, conducted an initial assessment of the situation from the air. Subsequently, with the help of intelligent on-board sensors, including a multispectral camera system and a radar system, a remote physician recorded the physiological parameters of the individuals and transmitted them to the rescue control center. After the arrival of the rescue team, the flight system autonomously returned to the ground station.

The system was developed as part of the FALKE research project, “Flight System Assisted Management of Complex Operations.” The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has supported the project between Docs in Clouds TeleCare GmbH, flyXdrive GmbH, IMST GmbH, RWTH Aachen University, and Ruhr University Bochum with funding in the amount of 2.3 million euros.

Automated Flight Guidance and Control

As part of the project, the Aachen Institute of Flight System Dynamics headed by Professor Dieter Moormann worked with flyXdrive GmbH to develop a fully automated flight guidance and control system for long-distance operations. The system is operational at all times, even in bad weather conditions. Thanks to its hovering capability and intelligent path guidance, the long-range aircraft it is able to quickly reach the site, navigate it, and precisely deploy its sensors systems.

The AcuteCare InnovationHub of the Department of Anaesthesiology at Uniklinik RWTH Aachen supports the research project with its medical and engineering expertise. It is responsible for implementing the contactless vital parameter measurements and for developing an adapted algorithm to allow scene inspection.