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ACE-OPS: From Autonomy to Cognitive assistance in Emergency OPerationS

1st December 2019 to 31st March 2024

The vision of this collaborative multi-centre project is to safeguard and transform current operation protocols of emergency teams by providing sensing, situation awareness, cognitive assistance and mobile autonomy capabilities, working synergistically as a single system.  

Statistics collected by the Home Office report 346 fire related fatalities in England during 2016/2017, the highest figure since 2011/12. Over a 10-year period in USA, 2775 firefighters died on duty. Where there is a need to save and evacuate people from a burning or flooded building, it is important for the chief incident commander to have increased situational awareness and to be able to effectively coordinate the rescue operation, and for individual responders to have enhanced visibility of surrounding hazards and dangers. To this end, we need to combine UK-based expertise in mobile autonomy and people localisation, with internationally leading expertise on welfare monitoring and cognitive assistance at the Univ. of Virginia, and on robotic vision applied to aerial vehicles at the Queensland University of Technology. 

The proposed work involves four distinct research directions:  

1) providing an integrated system for situation awareness that involves localisation of the emergency responders, monitoring of their welfare and mapping of the dynamically changing environment;  

2) exploring how situation awareness information should be fed into cognitive assistance tools, in order to provide helpful triggers and alerts to the incident commander and their team;  

3) introducing various levels of autonomy enabling aerial vehicles to simultaneously perform tasks of mapping, communication and localisation; and  

4) integrating the above capabilities and building the first end-to-end response system that implements the full feedback loop from sensor acquisition to emergency responders and back to sensor actuation.  

Sensors on people's wearable devices together with sensors mounted on aerial vehicles will contribute to data acquisition for welfare, location and environment monitoring. This in turn will provide input to cognitive assistance for emergency response teams, helping them to assess the situation. They will then in turn provide feedback to sensor systems to prioritise monitoring of specific areas, people or tasks, thus dynamically influencing the next round of situation awareness, and so on. This feedback loop will be a step change providing a whole new approach to safety for emergency responders. 

Principal Investigator

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