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Imagine a world where public safety professionals can enter a computerized three-dimensional model — think Star Trek’s Holodeck — to look for damage and people. It would be created with data collected by search and rescue drones.

According to the University of California (UC) San Diego, researchers across various engineering and science disciplines are doing just that. Several teams are testing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a new aerodrome made of a 30-foot-tall mesh cage over a 2,500-square-foot outdoor area, and there are plans to expand the test bed to a 100-foot-tall area indoors.

Research happening in the UAV laboratory — DroneLab — is partially funded by a $749,924 National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) grant to test drones for public safety use in disaster relief, as well as by the Army Research Laboratory, Army Corps of Engineers, National Science Foundation and Defense Advanced Projects Agency. The projects NIST funded last year are to help strengthen local ability to anticipate hazards, adapt and recover rapidly.

UC San Diego researchers are working to test how swarms of search and rescue drones can collect data on structures and infrastructure.

“We expect to see new research results on control of swarms of small UAVs and on the coordination between humans and robots,” said aid Henrik I. Christensen, a professor of computer science at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and the director of the campus’ Contextual Robotics Institute.

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Category: Science