Recently, twelve boys and their coach was rescued from a cave in northern Thailand. Little is known how technology helped in locating the boys trapped in the cave. Read on to know more about it…
In northern Thailand, twelve boys and their soccer coach was rescued when they were trapped inside a flooded cave. Various cutting-edge technology was used in the rescue work with the help and assistance of experts from several countries. Since the inhospitable terrain and heavy rains steadily worsened the rescue work, critical technology came into use along with the experts in using these technology tools.
Let’s take a look at how tech devices helped the rescue and explore how new age technology is critical for disaster management.
Drones, zoom lenses, and thermal cameras were used to create the first 3-D aerial map of the region and scout for cave access points. Powerful handheld radios have allowed the rescuers to communicate with the soccer team from long distances despite a lack of radio infrastructure in the area. Drones, autonomous underwater vehicles and robots have been used along with radio kits made at home by tinkerers have been equally important in finding the lost football team.
According to various sources, mixture of old and new technologies has been instrumental in the rescue effort.
After the British divers went deep enough to discover the specific location of the boys, the next process was to assess the entry points for the rescue team. For this operation, drones were flown over and around the mountain region. These drones had thermal camera and optical lenses with 30X zoom capability. In a pre-drone era, rescuers and terrain experts would have had to physically explore the area to assess entry points which could be more than 100. In this case, the drones were able to identify and shortlist entry points in hours instead of days. With heavy rain and storm, the use of drones accelerated the rescue effort in tough weather conditions. Remotely operated underwater vehicles was used to scan the area with higher precision.
In any rescue operation, one of the critical requirement is the electronic communication. Traditional radio systems need line of sight for communication so they are ineffective in a cave system. Hence two communication systems from two different eras were deployed. The British team used the two decade old tech of ultra-low frequency radios that could penetrate rocks for basic communication. The real breakthrough came from Israel’s Maxtech Networks that allowed voice, data and video connectivity for the trapped with the rescuers outside. This new system allows a clutch of small handheld devices to work in tandem to create a chain of connectivity in tough conditions. Maxtech Networks company website quotes that “The max mesh system automatically adapts to varying network conditions, degrees of client mobility, and relevant RF environmental conditions on a packet-by-packet basis, creating a virtual infrastructure with a powerful, ad-hoc, self-healing and self-routing multi-user network,”. Basically, it’s an algorithm that deploys a proactive routing technique in non-ideal conditions. The devices are able to connect to each other through the twisting passage ways of the cave system.
The Road Ahead
Autonomous vehicles, robots, AI-based communication networks and satellite technologies are essential for predictive alerts, rescue missions and smart disaster response. The key lesson from Thai rescue is that disaster management planners have to invest in latest cutting-edge technology and tech preparedness for effective results.