Pars aerial robot delivers a payload of life preservers to drowning victims


April 1, 2013

RTS Lab is developing Pars, a robotic quadcopter that launches from a floating platform and drops life preservers near people in the ocean who are in trouble

RTS Lab is developing Pars, a robotic quadcopter that launches from a floating platform and drops life preservers near people in the ocean who are in trouble

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If current technology trends are any indication, it's possible that human lifeguards could be replaced by robots in the future. So far, we've seen a remote-controlled rescue buoy and a salamander-like bot that travels on both water and land, among many others. Rather than having to cut through rough water to get to folks in trouble like many search and rescue robot designs, an Iranian research center proposes a quadcopter called Pars that launches from a floating platform and drops life preservers precisely where they're needed.

RTS Lab began developing Pars to address the high number of drowning victims in the Caspian Sea along the Iranian coastline. After creating a short-range rescue bot to help people near beaches, the team set to work on an improved model with much better capabilities.

The Pars design calls for a lightweight quadcopter equipped with a slew of sensors, including accelerometers, gyroscopes, GPS, a barometer, and an electronic compass. It's most distinguishing feature, however, is a series of latches underneath that can hold and release life preservers one at a time. The most recent design can hold three tubes at once, but the developers claim future models could stock over 15 by using a chemical material that expands the padding after release.

An operator would be able to remotely control the robots manually or an onboard artificial intelligence could allow it to act autonomously in certain situations. RTS Lab says it has made a point of keeping the controls simple, so that a rescue worker could learn to operate them with just a few days of training.

The group also designed a charging station that would use solar energy to recharge several Pars units when they are docked. The designers claim the platform could be attached to the top of a rescue boat or offshore structure and could even be modified into a standalone floating station. In the event of system failure or low power, the aerial bot floats in water even without the life preservers, so it can easily be recovered later.

If Pars works as well as its designers claim, it could have quite a few notable advantages over most rescue robots we've seen before. For one, it could attend to multiple people in one trip, whereas most amphibious robots are only equipped to handle one person at a time.

Flying over the waves also allows Pars to bypass any obstacles or rough water conditions that might be inaccessible to anything traveling by water (or even full-sized helicopters by air). Though how it would handle in a violent storm remains to be seen.

The quadcopter could also be equipped for aerial reconnaissance, giving rescuers a bird's-eye viewpoint of an emergency situation and allowing them to get the proper equipment ready before they even reach the site of an accident.

According to RTS Lab, most of the initial design work for the robot itself has been completed and tested, though the current model does not include ultrasound sensors or artificial intelligence. Right now, the researchers are seeking funding to build an industrial prototype and eventually mass produce Pars to get it into the hands of rescue workers worldwide.

Source: RTS Lab

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

My feeling is that these designs will not have enough lifting power or range unless the life preservers are extremely light - made of aerogel, perhaps, but is that strong enough? And in Image 5 the life preserver, compared to the radion controller, looks much too small to be useful.

David Evans

If you are drowning, any size of rescue device will help! Maybe a small life-vest with velcro fasteners in a floating, hi-viz dye carrying capsule - that opens and becomes more visible when it hits the water - and a CO2 inflation cartridge would be more easily carried in quantity than a full-sized life preserver as seen in the mock-up?

The Skud

The battery power reduces the capability of the robot to swimming pools and patrolled beaches. Worthy work to be sure but for open water applications it needs a power supply with a much higher energy density. I would go with a Stirling cycle engine and generator in a carbon fiber pressure tank, using a butane burner as the heat source.


Why are you three smarter than the developers of this device? I don't recall reading anywhere that they had finalized their product. How hard is it for you to point out "errors"? You think they aren't aware of it? What do you think you'll get for "being the smartest in the room"? Get over yourselves.

Mexoplex 5 Million

I'd like to see a finalized version of this available to the lifeguards on Bondi Beach and the various beaches along southern California. As 'The Skud' wrote "any size of rescue device will help!". After-all seat commercial aircraft cushions are still rated as 'flotation devices' in the event of ditching in the oceans.

The Iranians aren't idiots - they'll tweak the design until it's viable. Only hope some American swimmers/surfers have to die because of political bickering, 'NIH' (Not Invented Here) or 'economic stimulus'. HONEST people give credit where credit is due


Mexoplex: I'm inclined to be suspicious of any Iranian tech that looks too good to be true, after they recently published a photoshopped picture of their stealth fighter in flight. Google (Iran photoshop) for that and other examples.

David Evans
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