Drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death in the world, making it a major public health problem worldwide representing about 320 000 deaths annually, and in Sweden, about 400 people are experiencing drowning every year. Time is the biggest limitation in a drowning incident, already after 10 minutes of submersion, the survival is quite poor. Therefore, search and rescue operations are often a very stressful and complex event, at the same time a very time-consuming, and challenging process due to large search areas and poor visibility for all the different rescue professionals involved.
This project has been focusing on developing new solutions for the rescue professionals, to enable them to do their job in a better, safer, and more efficient way. The geographical framework of the project has been focusing on the procedures in Sweden, in close collaboration with FLIR Systems, and stakeholders and experts within the field.
The research took a holistic perspective, conducting interviews and field trips with the different rescue professionals and organizations in Sweden, as well as literature research on the topic of drowning and statistics. The most challenging process for the rescue professionals was seen as a scenario when the person is missing, and a search process must start. The scope of the project was narrowed down to focus on the municipality rescue service as the primary stakeholder, which has a very fast response time and is often first on-site. The conclusions showed a need for more efficient searching solutions, that could help the municipality rescue service during the first critical minutes to save more lives.
Several concept ideas were developed and tested, targeting the main problem statement:
“How might we improve the searching process for the municipality rescue services during a drowning incident?”
The result, FLIR SORA (Search Optimization Rescue Assistance), is a concept solution that consists of a Search Estimation and Planning System that is connected to the search unit SORA, she acts as the rescuers’ extra eyes above and underwater. SORA uses thermal and sonar technology simultaneously in combination with a trained AI to identify a drowning victim from the rest of the environment. The system, FLIR SORA becomes a decision support throughout the whole searching process.