Project rationale and overview

Avalanches represent a major hazard in Europe’s mountain areas during winter. Numbers concerning Search & Rescue (S&R) operations in the Alps are staggering. Considering simply S&R operations on the Italian and Swiss side of the Alps, in the last 15 years 2988 men and women were rescued in alpine accidents due to avalanches with 883 fatalities. In about 1460 interventions, 45% of the rescued had not reported any consequence due to the impact with the avalanche, 26% was injured and 29% died. High-risk activities include the alpine skiing (44% of accidents), off-piste skiing (28% of accidents) and hiking (13% of accidents). A further element characterizing winter S&R is the high risk undertaken by rescuers, since they are constantly in danger of becoming themselves victims of accidents.

AirBrone is a EU Horizon 2020 project whose key objective is to develop drones equipped with the two forefront sensor technologies nowadays used in S&R operations in case of avalanche, namely ARVA and RECCO, with the aim of having an impact first of all on the chances of survival of victims of avalanches, and secondly on the safety of S&R teams, often operating in dangerous situations. It is based on the concept of service platforms in a sharing economy scenario applied to human capital intensive services, like S&R operations are.

The robotic technologies constitute the initial “technological seed” on which an innovative ICT technology service network will be constituted at European level with the final goal of feeding professional S&R teams and associations with effective ICT technologies by creating a business opportunity and contributing to address several shortcomings of current operations. Technological Hubs (TH) located in strategic positions on the territory and directly linked to the S&R professional teams characterize the network. The teams will be involved as advanced-users to co-developand test the model. This leads to a decentralized network structure strongly linked to the territory in which end-users play an active role in developing and promoting the technology. The TH act as pivots in which the technology is guarded on the territory and dispensed to local S&R teams and around which local communities/associations engaged in S&R activity gravitate and helping the growth of the initiative by stimulating new hubs.

The action is coordinated by UNIBO (University of Bologna), bringing into AirBorne specific skills in automatic control and Innovation Management. Besides PlusValue, the partnership includes CAI, one of the leaders in Alpine Search and Rescue organization with the role of end-user and first “seed” of the network, XLog and RECCO, the manufacturers of the key components of the most reliable personal safety equipment for avalanche incidents, and AslaTech, a company involved in both in mechanical and electronic design activities related with automation of unmanned aerial system vehicles and responsible for the development of Airborne drones.

Our Added value

Within Airborne, PlusValue is in charge of:

  • Design the business model, necessary to maximize impact;
  • Support for the proliferation and exploitation of Technological Hubs (TH), territorial decentralized structures guarding drones;
  • Define the impact strategy framework and to report on the social, economic and environmental impact of the project

Project Impact

The impact of Airborne strongly relies on its main technological advancement with respect to existing Search & Rescue approaches: the integration of ARVA and RECCO technologies with a state of art aerial robotic device. The objective is therefore to produce a drone with the capability to quickly and autonomously locate buried victims of winter avalanches. The broad scenario in which Airborne aims at operating is that of professional S&R, which, despite their outstanding efforts, still appear to lack a great deal of coordination both at the national and European levels.

Project Website here.