NASA, DHS Partner on Technology to Locate Disaster Victims

The FINDER technology is a portable radar device to detect the heartbeats and breathing patterns of people trapped in rubble.

NASA announced that its Jet Propulsion Laboratory is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate on a first-of-its-kind portable radar device named FINDER that will be able to detect the heartbeats and breathing patterns of victims who are trapped in rubble after a disaster. The prototype Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response technology can locate people buried as deep as 30 feet in crushed materials, hidden behind 20 feet of solid concrete, and from a distance of 100 feet in open spaces, according to the agency’s announcement.

"FINDER is bringing NASA technology that explores other planets to the effort to save lives on ours. This is a prime example of intergovernmental collaboration and expertise that has a direct benefit to the American taxpayer," said Mason Peck, chief technologist for NASA and principal advisor on technology policy and programs, referring to the fact that FINDER is based on remote-sensing radar technology developed by JPL to monitor the location of spacecraft.

Officials demonstrated it Sept. 25 at DHS's Virginia Task Force 1 Training Facility in Lorton, Va., and the announcement said FEMA will test it this year and in 2014. "The ultimate goal of FINDER is to help emergency responders efficiently rescue victims of disasters," said John Price, program manager for the First Responders Group in the Science and Technology Directorate. "The technology has the potential to quickly identify the presence of living victims, allowing rescue workers to more precisely deploy their limited resources."

FINDER uses advanced algorithms to isolate the tiny signals from a person's moving chest by filtering out other signals, according to NASA, which reported similar technology could be used in future human missions to space habitats, with astronauts' vital signs monitored wirelessly.

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