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A new European research initiative will develop innovative ways of detecting victims trapped under debris

The CURSOR project will devise an innovative system using drones, miniaturized robots and advanced sensors to speed up the location of disaster victims trapped under debris while reducing risk for search-and-rescue teams and first responders.


In the face of natural or man-made disaster, urban search and rescue teams and other first responders like police, medical units or civil protection race against the clock to locate survivors within the critical 72-hour timeframe, often at their own peril due to the presence of instable structures or hazardous environments. In order to speed up the detection of survivors trapped in collapsed buildings and to improve working conditions for the first responders, the CURSOR project will devise novel technologies using drones, miniaturized robotic equipment and advanced sensors. The project will most notably deliver the innovative CURSOR Search and Rescue Kit, which features miniaturized robots and different types of drones. The robots are equipped with chemical sensors that detect a wide range of chemical substances indicating human presence. They are carried from the operations headquarters to the disaster site by a transport drone. On site, the robots work independently in clusters searching for survivors. Additionally, the Mothership UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) acts as an aerial hub that produces high-definition imaging for accurate visualization of the disaster zone and allows communication with the control centre. The initiative ultimately seeks to match the operational needs of search and rescue teams with current technological capabilities. In order to achieve this objective, the CURSOR team, which includes 16 partners*, involves first-response practitioners from four European countries; research organisations that will provide leading-edge technology; and small and medium companies that will develop key innovative components and commercialize the project results. Other relief practitioners will be involved as members of the project's First Responder Board, responsible for technology validation and standardisation activities. "First responders have practical experience on the field and developers the technical know-how," explains Klaus Dieter Büttgen, coordinator of the CURSOR project at the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW). "Through this unique collaboration between technical partners, industry, academics and first responders, expertise will be transformed into a novel technology that contributes to locating buried victims more swiftly and with less risk for the people conducting the research operation." The European Commission granted EUR 7 million to the CURSOR research proposal under the Horizon 2020 funding scheme. The project was officially launched in September and will run for three years. NOTES TO THE EDITOR * Consortium partners Practitioners Technisches Hilfswerk - Bundesministerium des Innern, Germany Entente pour la Forêt Méditerranéenne, France Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, United Kingdom Service Départemental d'Incendie et de Secours de la Savoie, France Hellenic Rescue Team ATTICA, Greece Small-to-medium enterprises EXODUS SA, Greece C4CONTROLS, United Kingdom International Security Competence Centre GmbH, Austria Trilateral Research Ltd, Ireland ARTTIC S.A.S. France (Project office) Research Tohoku University, Japan Institute of Communications and Computer Systems, Greece SINTEF AS, Norway Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives, France The University of Manchester, United Kingdom Not-for-profit organisation German Institute for Standardisation, Germany Members of the First Responder Board: International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, Regione Liguria, USAR.NL USAR US, National Research Institute of Fire and Disaster (Japan) This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 832790.