After a disaster strikes, the first few hours are crucial to locate and save victims. But these hours are also the most dangerous for first responders*: not all threats and risks are yet identified. Decisions are made in a rush and under stress into a vast, complex and hostile environment including many unknown and dangerous spaces to explore, that cost responders’ valuable time.
The objective of the European project INTREPID** is to improve first responders’ very first operations in three main directions:
- Exploring: Cybernetics assistants (drones, robots) collaborate to scout and assess disaster zones and localise potential threats,
- Understanding: eXtended Reality and Artificial Intelligence provide clear situational awareness,
- Deciding: Intelligence Amplification technologies provide guidance, alerts and decision support.
INTREPID will enable rescue teams to operate safely, and immediately, to detect and locate victims and threats without waiting for specialised reconnaissance teams or the complete securing of the area.
To do so, the project develops and validates an easy-to-deploy and secured platform to enhance the speed, range and safety of complex and hazardous zones exploration and assessment.
Behind this project, many people are working. The INTREPID consortium is made up of 17 members from 7 countries (France, Belgium, Sweden, Greece, Spain, Netherlands and Germany) with complementary expertise in all relevant areas: research and technical development operators, support partners and end users such as the marine firefighters of Marseille, Stockholm Fire Brigade, Greek civic security, the federal Police of Belgium, the municipal police, the dog team and the emergency medical service of Madrid.
Launched at the end of 2020 for a three-year period, the European R&D INTREPID project develops new solutions combining the latest research in the fields of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, digital twins, as well as cyber assistants, drones and intelligent robots of the next generation.
What does INTREPID aim to develop exactly?
INTREPID Cybernetic Assistants: INTREPID implements a new generation of drones and robots tailored for synergetic operations for improved exploration and scanning capabilities in cluttered disaster sites.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is a smart UAV equipped with sensors, scanning the incident area,
- Unmanned Ground Vehicle is an UGV equipped with a robotic arm capturing the area with its laser sensor,
- Symbiotic control is the UxVs joint operation to perform collaborative tasks, the Mission controller is giving recommendations on the actions to be taken during the intervention,
- Tactical communication system enables robust, resilient and secure data exchange between first responders and all system components.
INTREPID Situational Awareness and Operation Management: INTREPID implements the first fully integrated digital-twin and eXtended Reality based mobile platform for orchestrating rapid scanning and disaster zone assessment operations involving multiple UxVs and first responders.
- Real time positioning module allows teams’ progress to be followed in real time including their exact position on the field, wherever they are,
- Environment assessment module assesses the environment and detects, recognises and locates crucial elements of the area, in order to help the end users make important decisions,
- Environment mapping module is producing the updated BIM model of the area, thanks to the point cloud,
- Digital mock-up and XR reality allow the rescue teams to project fully in the crisis scene.
INTREPID Intelligence Amplification Capabilities: INTREPID develops an intelligence amplification system that supports decision-making capabilities, assisting, guiding and alerting the responder with special focus on the optimisation of both the exploration and assessment of the site.
- Doctrine model collects all the rules from the field,
- Path planning module is responsible for providing navigation assistance to responders and cyber-assistants to reach or exit an area,
- Intelligence Amplification Module supports and assists the first responders in decision making, selecting the best actions suited to the situation,
- INTREPID mobile system is the interface for the transcription and control of all actions carried out during the operation.
All these modules are developed and managed by different and complementary partners and are interdependent.
As the project is based on a user-centred methodology, first responders are involved to validate how to make these technologies easier for them or to evaluate the effectiveness of the system in the field and verify its relevance.
To do so, the INTREPID project organised three real-life pilots. They put the project in real conditions, to evaluate the technological innovations progress, the user-friendliness of the interface, and to enable end users to use the technology itself.
The first pilot took place in Stockholm in November 2021 and simulated a flood and fire in an underground railway. The second was in October 2022, in Marseille, and modelled an industrial incident in a SEVESO site, with fire, potentially toxic smoke and explosive gas-leak risks. The third and last one will be in June 2023, in Madrid, and will simulated a huge terrorist explosion in a public building, with chemical risks.
Pilot 2 in Marseille was a success, and validated achievements such as the testing of technologies in smoke conditions, fire detection by the EAM, and the ability of the robot arm to pick up and drop objects.
The project team is now focusing on the final year of the project, and the next challenges: Pilot 3 in Madrid, and the technological developments inherent to it. Indeed, Pilot 2 was the optimal moment for the different partners of the project, more specifically technical partners and end users to discuss and share. The rescue teams were able to express their feedback, their expectations, and the technical partners were able to gather valuable information on the use of their technologies in the field.
The project’s objective is also to disseminate the results of the research, which is why in-depth deliverables about the progress of the project are available on the website. The consortium members also regularly organise events to present the latest technologies. A webinar is planned for early next year and will be dedicated to the future crises that first responders will have to face, and how INTREPID can be useful in these new challenges.
For more information, go to www.intrepid-project.eu
* It includes first aid, firefighters, police, medical team.
** INtelligent Toolkit for Reconnaissance and assessmEnt in Perilous InciDents