Drone Flight in Swiss Alps Glacier Offers Promise for Life-Saving Missions

Posted by Betsy Lillian on January 19, 2016 No Comments

Flyability, the Switzerland-based robotics company that won last year’s United Arab Emirates’ Drones for Good Award, has partnered with the mountain rescue team of the Zermatt Glacier in the Swiss Alps to explore crevasses at an altitude of 3,500 meters above sea level.

According to Flyability, the narrow ice caves are inaccessible to all current robotic technologies and present a huge risk to human rescuers. The company says its latest drone, however, is able to fly down into the crevasse and back up to the surface.

With a spherical, freely rotating, protective cage, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) remains stable after contact with other objects – thus, making it collision-tolerant and safe to fly around humans. In this situation on the Swiss Alps, an untrained pilot was able to access the extreme environment by remotely piloting the UAV.

The embedded HD camera, digital live video transmission and powerful lighting system allowed the aircraft to operate in the heart of the mountain glacier and capture footage of the area that has rarely been seen by humans, says Flyability.

The company adds that the experience has shed light on the promising results of using unmanned technology for mountain search-and-rescue missions, as well as industrial inspections of inaccessible and confined environments.

The technology has been warmly welcomed by Zermatt rescuers, who are constantly developing and refining rescue techniques for crevasse-fall emergencies, says Flyability.

Last year, the company won a $1 million grand prize in the international competition of the UAE Drones For Good Award. The competition involved over 800 entries from 57 countries, and the company won for its Gimball UAV.

Flyability says it is developing UAVs to allow a wide range of users to locate infrastructure defects, locate victims in rescue missions or get a precise picture of hard-to-reach places – while achieving important time, cost and risk reductions.

The footage of the Swiss Alps flights can be found here.

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