Swiss computer science student Jonathan Cheseaux has developed a system for locating a person via his or her mobile phone with a drone, which could be used to find victims in natural disasters.
A drone makes large circles in the sky. With two powerful antennas, it sniffs the data packets emitted by mobile phones. On the ground, an interface developed specifically for this project makes it possible to track the flight of a small robotic aircraft in real time from a computer. Colored dots visible on the screen map indicate the spotted phones. The vehicle tightens its flight around the selected device to indicate its position.
“In the best tests we have performed, the place indicated was within 10 meters,” says Jonathan Cheseaux, who worked on the project for his Master’s degree in computer science at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
Following an earthquake or another natural disaster, it is often difficult to know the position of victims under the rubble. As most people, even in poor countries, have a mobile phone, the members of EPFL’s Mobile Communications Laboratory had the idea of using phones to identify the position of victims and thereby facilitate a search.