Getting drones into the air to aid in search and rescue missions is becoming one of the technology's more promising applications, with infrared cameras and even artificial intelligence offering valuable new tools in combing areas for humans and objects. But one company is looking to add another layer of sophistication to robotic rescue teams, launching a drone-attachment that can detect the heartbeats and breathing of people trapped under rubble.

Dubbed the Lynx6-A, the system is aimed at first responders and law enforcement personnel who might be on the hunt for bodies stuck beneath collapsed buildings in the aftermath of an earthquake, or perhaps even suspect people hiding where they shouldn't be.

The patented system carries a small HD video camera so the drone can be guided remotely, and a sensor that the company tells us can detect changes in the electromagnetic signature of an open volume of space. Analyzing electromagnetic signals, which are conducted through the human body, is the same technique used by Disney in developing a smartwatch concept that can discern what items its wearer is touching.

IntelliNet Sensors, developer of the Lynx6-A, says it can apply the technology to pickup breathing or heartbeats over larger distances. By landing sensors in various points around a site to form a network, shifts in the electro-magnetic signature of the space can be detected that are indicative of signs of life. It then converts data into a graph representing the distance to the live person from a sensor. Further processing of the repetition rates is then able to distinguish between breathing and a heartbeat.

"By remotely landing the sensor in multiple points, extreme efficiency in set up and search time to detect trapped individuals can be achieved," says Dr. Fred Mohamadi, president of IntelliNet Sensors. "The rapid deployment within hard-to-reach areas allows first responders and law enforcement personnel to save many more lives in a highly stressful and noisy environment – a factor that traditional sensors are lacking."

Intellinet Sensors tells us the module can be attached to any low-cost, small drone. It is tight-lipped on the price for the Lynx6-A for now, but says production is ramping up with the system to become available globally soon.

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