Safer rescue operations in urban environments

Finnish and Norwegian researchers have developed a system that allows search and rescue services to navigate safely indoors during operations.

Picture shows some of the CANDO project team members. The reference system used for testing can be seen in the middle. The system was used to test the viability of the method developed in the project.
Picture shows some of the CANDO project team members. The reference system used for testing can be seen in the middle. The system was used to test the viability of the method developed in the project. Starting from the left: Nadezda Sokolova, Laura Ruotsalainen, Aiden Morrison, Jesperi Rantanen and Maija Mäkelä.
Photo:
Geir Mogen

Search and rescue services, such as firefighters and defence forces, need navigation and positioning systems that work quickly and in all environments. Satellite navigation does not work indoors, which means new navigation methods are needed for spatial positioning in urban environments. 

In the CANDO project, the previous results from two top research groups were combined through international cooperation. The results were used to create a solution to improve the security of personnel participating in operations. The solution can be used, for instance, in operations to combat terrorism.

‘We brought our expertise in pedestrian navigation methods and image-aided navigation to the project, and SINTEF, a Norwegian research institute, contributed its expertise in collaborative navigation’, says Laura Ruotsalainen, who led the Sensors and Indoor Navigation research group at FGI. Today, Ruotsalainen is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki.

With collaborative navigation, all team members know their location in relation to the other team members, which makes it easier to pinpoint their location. If only one navigation method is used, the possibility for errors increases quickly. To combat this, inertial sensors were supplemented with machine vision. 

‘Sensors carried by pedestrians measure their wearers’ acceleration and angular velocity step by step, but they provide reliable position information only for a limited time. By combining different navigation methods and sensors, we can create a smart solution that is more reliable and adapts to different situations better’, says research scientist Jesperi Rantanen from FGI.

The project team developed a method that enables a team of several people to navigate indoors. The project’s aim was ambitious: reaching a positioning accuracy at a room-based level for at least 10 minutes at a time. 

‘We got new results, but we also faced some challenges. We were able to significantly improve the technologies used before. Research in the subject will continue’, Ruotsalainen says.

Navigation was achieved by using a variety of sensors attached to the user’s gear. This way, navigation is not dependent on infrastructure and there is no need for a navigation device, such as a WLAN device, to be placed inside the building. This means the operation team does not need to know the layout of the building in advance.

High-quality research and information exchange

The goal was not only to innovate together, but also to increase the expertise of the participating researchers. The project supported young, postgraduate students who are starting their career, and promoted efficient information exchange between researchers. The project also promoted closer ties between the Finnish and Norwegian research institutes and facilitated future cooperation.

‘The project has enabled us to extensively share our expertise and competence in a reciprocal manner. It has also produced new information that can be used in future research projects. In addition, the project has provided young researchers an excellent opportunity to gain valuable experience in being a part of an international research project,’ says research scientist Maija Mäkelä from FGI.

The Collaborative Augmented Navigation for Defence Objectives (CANDO) project was started in April 2018 and its results were finalised in February 2020.

NATO provided funding for the CANDO project. The end-users, i.e. the Finnish Army and the Norwegian Battle Lab & Experimentation (NOBLE), also participated in the project

More information

Associate Professor Laura Ruotsalainen, +358 50 556 0761, firstname.lastname@helsinki.fi 

Research Scientist Maija Mäkelä, +358 50 338 7354

Research Scientist Jesperi Rantanen, +388 50 406 2343

The email addresses are in the format firstname.lastname@nls.fi
 

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