Saturday, May 25, 2024

Rats Locate Earthquake Victims With Their New Backpack

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Researchers have developed a “system-on-rat” with GPS and camera to locate earthquake victims stuck under the rumble.

Every organism has their share in the natural order of existence. They contribute in one way or another irrespective of their size and abilities. For example bees, they contribute to almost 70% of agriculture throughout the world by pollinating the growing crops. One another example is yet again demonstrated by a team of researchers at the Belgian aid organization APOPO.

Rats are referred to as very notorious creatures in our history as they have been a reason for plagues a very common disease spreader. But researchers have utilized their ability of sneaking into every other place by attaching a location determining backpack. Bram van Kasteren at the Belgian aid organization APOPO defended his master’s thesis by training African hamster rats to search for earthquake victims under rubble, using a backpack on their backs. This would eventually allow rescue workers to know exactly where to find the victim when the little rat hits the alarm button.

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To track down people buried under the rubble, the rat had to be in communication with the rescue workers. For that they needed a system with a microphone, camera, controller, GPS, antennas. Sander Verdeisen, as a then student, developed a 3D-printed backpack with the necessary electronics for the rat. He continued to develop his work overtime resulting in a present robust little backpack with improved built-in camera and batteries. The system also embodies an alarm button under the rat’s neck so that the animal can notify rescuers when it has found a victim.

Detection takes place with the help of a software that determines where the signal is coming from. By combining the lines from all the receiving antennas, a single point emerges where the rat should be. The more receiving antennas are being used, the more accurate the positioning becomes.

The exact location of the rat under the debris is sent in real time to the rescuers above ground. That way the helpers can check a map on their mobile exactly where the rat is with the victim and how far away they themselves are. After multiple tests, radio triangulation proved to be the best method as soon as GPS is lost. In this, the system monitors multiple measurement points to determine its location.


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