Finding Avalanche Victims? There Is An App For That

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Yes. You read it right. This smartphone app developed by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) can locate the avalanche victims with the greatest accuracy possible.

Unlike most of the previously available apps, that use WiFi and Bluetooth technology as well as GPS, to help locate a buried avalanche victim, the Galileo-LawinenFon (lawinen is German for avalanche) app features a piece of hardware called Galileo-SmartLVS that connects to a smartphone via USB and help locate the victim to pin-point accuracy.

The complete system features a 3D magnetic field antenna that does the job of signal transmission, an analog-digital converter, a satellite navigation receiver, accelerometers and a reserve battery. The hardware attached actually turns a smartphone into an avalanche transceiver with the ability to draw on magnetic field signals. The combined signals of the USA’s GPS, Europe’s Galileo and Russia’s GLONASS satellite positioning systems helps to pinpoint buried avalanche victims.

“Since our solution draws on numerous available sensors and satellite systems, the signals transmitted by victims can be located with a great deal of precision. Magnetic field signals are processed in 3D so that we can pinpoint accident victims in a matter of seconds and improve their chances of survival.” said Holger Schulz, a scientist at Fraunhofer IML.

Avalanche victims Receiver App

The system’s reception range is currently around 30 m (100 ft), but the researchers are working to extend it. The smartphone app displays the distance and direction to the buried person. While using mathematical models, the team is planning to add the depth at which they are buried in the future.

Prototype testing of the device was carried out and researchers are confident with the accuracy of centimeters the device gives. They hope to commercialize the product within next two to three years.


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