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NASA's suitcase-sized radar helps find earthquake survivors in Mexico

Think Change India
28th Sep 2017
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Disaster relief workers are using a radar instrument developed by NASA to detect human heartbeats under rubble after the unfortunate 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Mexico City. The full form of this suitcase-sized radar, abbreviated to 'FINDER', is 'Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response'.

Image Source: Time

The 7.1-magnitude earthquake took place on September 19, killing nearly 139 people as buildings collapsed. It created a situation of panic among people, where many fled to the streets while a few stayed back to rescue the ones trapped. As per News Nation, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings collapsed at 44 places in the capital alone.

This radar was designed by NASA in collaboration with the US Department of Homeland Security to detect human heartbeats under rubble. According to The Indian Express, Task Manager for FINDER at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Neil Chamberlain, said,

Our hearts go out to the people of Mexico. We’re glad to know our technology is being used to make a difference there.

This radar was earlier used to detect four men trapped under a collapsed textile factory in Nepal after the massive earthquake in 2015.

FINDER sends a low-powered microwave signal through rubble. This sent signal looks for changes in reflection of the signals emitted from even the tiniest motions caused by breathing or heartbeat of a victim. FINDER has been able to detect heartbeats through 20 feet of solid concrete or 30 feet of rubble in the tests.

The evolution of this technology came from the efforts of JPL to develop small, low-cost spacecraft radios that use signals to detect tiny motions in the spacecraft. Two private companies have been able to acquire licences for this technology since 2015. These radars have since been taken to disaster regions, training relief workers and manufacturing new units.

These companies take help from the local government when they visit disaster zones. A variety of other techniques such as trained dogs, thermal images, and acoustic sensing devices are also used along with FINDER.

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