The first minutes and hours following a natural disaster are crucial if lives are to be saved. NASA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are working together to produce a device that can detect heartbeats and breathing patterns of victims trapped beneath debris.

Japan Earthquake

For first response services precious time is often spent digging through endless piles of rubble in the hope of finding people alive, but the harsh reality is that too often it takes too long, resulting in people being found too late.

According to NASA, it has been able to produce a prototype for a technology called Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER). It is capable of locating people buried up to 30 feet.

“In the search and rescue world, they speak of the ‘golden hour,’” said FINDER task manager James Lux, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, in a video about the device. “If you find someone within an hour of the incident occurring, the odds of survival are much higher.”

The FINDER device looks like a plastic briefcase and weighs less than 20 pounds. It sends microwave radar signals into the debris and then analyzes the returning signal for anything that resembles a human heartbeat or breathing pattern.

Advanced data processing algorithms developed by Jet Propulsion Lab are able to “isolate the tiny signals from a person’s moving chest by filtering out other signals, such as those from moving trees and animals.” These will help make it easier to analyze radar signals in a chaotic, post-disaster environment.

“FINDER also uses technology developed by NASA to track the faint signals coming from deep space probes like Cassini and Juno,” said Whitney Clavin, a spokeswoman for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

John Price, program manager for the DHS’ First Responders Group, called FINDER “probably the greatest advance in the last 30 years,” in NASA’s video.

[Image via Sammyboy]

SOURCE: http://mashable.com/2013/09/26/nasa-heartbeat-finder/