This Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) project from the University of Nevada-Reno has as its goal the enhancement of the situational awareness capabilities of law enforcement agencies and first responders by employing unmanned autonomous systems (UAS) with high-resolution sensing and imaging capabilities for disaster remediation. Law enforcement agencies and first responders face significant challenges during an emergency event, such as a natural or anthropogenic disaster (earthquake, tsunami, fire, hurricane, tornado, flood, power or nuclear accident, act of war, or terror). One of the major challenges is acting decisively based on available information and considering human factors, making high-quality real-time situational awareness critical to effectively manage and safeguard civilians and in- field personnel. This project focuses on creating a smart emergency-response service system using UAS, both air- and ground-based systems, equipped with state-of-the-art imaging, sensing, and communication systems to provide first response teams with high-quality, real-time information to act decisively and effectively via human-machine interactions. Such a smart service system will guide/escort humans to safety, direct rescue crews to access trapped humans, and provide in-situ communication, medication, water and food, and power. The program will develop the requisite human infrastructure of graduate students in mechanical engineering, computer science and engineering, electrical engineering, and social psychology. Working together in the interdisciplinary team, students will be exposed to research outside of their respective disciplines and to innovative opportunities for entrepreneurship. A successful smart service system will impact the operations of the public safety sector, and it could be adapted by similar organizations.
The project's objectives include the following: (1) develop and integrate UAS platforms, sensors, imaging and communication systems, and control and path planning algorithms to create a UAS-based smart service system for first response; (2) model the state of humans and infrastructure during a disaster, identify the scene, and create access paths to safety; (3) test prototypes and pursue commercialization opportunities; and (4) educate the public and train first responders on the technology. The translational research to create the UAS-based smart service system will focus on sensor data fusion, scene identification, modeling of the state of humans, infrastructure and their interactions as well as on the platform for testing and evaluating remediation strategies, communication schemes, and access path planning. Understanding of the system aspects will enable first responders and public safety command personnel to analyze and understand on-scene, active emergency situations through interactive, integrated data analysis and visualization; and give them the ability to sense, predict, and act in a variety of disaster scenes and human socio-psychological conditions.
Partners at the inception of this project are the University of Nevada at Reno (involving faculty across four departments: mechanical engineering, computer science and engineering, electrical engineering, and social psychology); industry partners: two small businesses, Drone America and SpecTIR, companies based out of Reno, Nevada; academic partners: University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and the University of Utah as well as experts from the UNR Seismology Lab and the Washoe County as System users; and broader context partners include the newly established Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center (NAASIC) at UNR, the state-supported UAS program management office, Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), and the Nevada Industry Excellence (NVIE).