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InDro Robotics revolutionizes search and rescue

By Microsoft on May 10, 2017

Filed under Public Safety and National Security

Based out of Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, InDro Robotics creates tailor-made unmanned vehicle solutions for its clients’ data needs, offering a full-range of services across industry, government and non-profit sectors. Looking to enhance their search and rescue effort offering, InDro partnered with Microsoft to build a solution that would transform search and rescue missions across Canada.

InDro was manually operating their drones, relying on software to preload flight patterns. While this was a step towards automation, live operators were still necessary to monitor the drones and detect emergencies, limiting InDro’s ability to take full advantage of the power of drone automation. Through this process, there were challenges coordinating between the boats and the main rescue centre, and moreover, data was being stored locally which meant InDro lacked a centralized view of its operations.

What InDro needed was a system to help streamline and scale its drone operations. The right solution would need to facilitate communication between boats and the main rescue centre, while securely storing sensitive data. With these goals in mind, InDro turned to the power of the Microsoft Cloud.

Where InDro needed a centralized hub to authenticate and connect unique drone information to an overarching system, Microsoft deployed Azure IoT Hub. Thanks to this service, images taken by drones can be sent and stored alongside their unique GPS coordinates in real time, making images available to the main rescue centre without delay.

As a core part of the solution, InDro used the Custom Vision cognitive service to detect emergencies automatically with high prediction level and speed. The Custom Vision service is trained to recognize certain objects as noteworthy (such as a life jacket on open water) and others as insignificant (such as open water), leading to new insights that will help rescuers cover more ground and better enable them to save lives.

Another layer, Azure Functions, triggers messages to the Main Rescue Center, activating the Custom Vision service, and updates the SQL Server database. Azure Functions is the heart of the system, where the classification and identification of problematic images takes place. Azure Functions uses the findings of the Custom Vision service to update the database with any noteworthy images of concern, promptly alerting operators.

“The ability to have the UAV fly over a scene of interest and have an automatic process that could pick out items of interest such as a life jacket or capsized boat, would not only save valuable search time, but potentially lives,” commented the Director of Emergency Services at Renfrew County, Ontario.

With the help of Azure Mobile Apps, communication is facilitated between the control application and SQL Server, effectively connecting the individual components of the system and authenticating users’ devices for a secure, centralized system. “The Azure IoT Hub was very easy to interface with, and had simple implementation and easy integration with other Azure services,” said Troy Newton, Principal Software Developer at InDro. “I also really liked how we could control access by individual devices rather than just a single set of credentials.”

With the power of Azure, Microsoft is helping InDro Robotics revolutionize search and rescue missions. The Custom Vision cognitive service has optimized InDro’s processes, empowering InDro’s employees to spend less time monitoring drones and more time responding to emergencies.

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Learn more about the new Custom Vision Cognitive Service Offering here.

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