The recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal provided NASA’s new radar technology, called FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), a moment to shine; it was able to detect and save four people trapped under mountains of rubble and debris.
Search & rescue teams deployed two prototypes of FINDER, which uses microwave-radar to pinpoint faint heartbeats. It assisted in locating people buried under 30 feet of rubble, 20 feet of solid concrete and from a distance of 100 feet. This marks the first time that FINDER was used in an actual emergency situation.
FINDER was developed in 2013 as a collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the National Aeronautics Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
“The true test of any technology is how well it works in a real-life operational setting,” said Dr. Reginald Brothers, a part of the development team. “Of course, no one wants disasters to occur, but tools like this are designed to help when our worst nightmares do happen. I am proud that we were able to provide the tools to help rescue these four men,” he added.
The FINDER-assisted rescue took place in the Nepalese village of Chautara, where men were trapped beneath two different collapsed structures. The microwave radar technology allows emergency responder teams not only to locate heartbeats, but also to distinguish between human and animal heartbeats, as well as between conscious and unconscious victims.
NASA, more well-known for its space exploration efforts, plans to release its new technology for commercial production.