R.I.M. Porter Novelli

Sistema allocates RUB 20 mln for 4 finalists of the Odyssey Technological Project


Qualification tests of technologies developed by the participants to National Russian research initiative “Odyssey” were conducted in Kaluga Region on June 10-13. The Odyssey technological competition was announced by Sistema Charity Fund (operator of social investments of AFK Sistema) in July 2018 to solve the most important social problem — search and salvage of people lost in the natural environment.

In the course of qualification, 17 teams from Moscow, Saint-Petersburg< Tomsk, Yakutsk, Kostroma, Togliatti, and Novosibirsk demonstrated to the board of experts the efficiency of the developed technologies under simulated search and rescue conditions. Each team was challenged with a task: within two hours, accurately determine coordinates of a person lost in the forest area of at least 4 square kilometers using the developed device.

By results of the competition, four teams from Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and Yakutia successfully completed the task, entered the finals and received the highest points from the jury. The jury followed the following criteria to assess the prototypes: time spent for searching of the location; portability; autonomy; number of people engaged in the search; and easy handling. The winners were determined in each of the criteria by a majority of vote.

Based on expert estimates, the best searching results were demonstrated by teams who offered applied technologies for the solution of the task. Three out of four qualified teams offered a comprehensive solution.

“The goal of the competition is to develop an efficient approach for searching of people lost in the woods,” comments Vitaly Afonkin, Director of Odyssey quest. “At the very start, we guessed that we should find breakthrough solutions and use mission-critical technologies. However, the practice and real field tests showed that teams with applied technologies were the most efficient. These technologies can be used in real search and rescue operations even today.”

“Nakhodka” team (Yakutia) offered the most autonomous comprehensive solution including sound and light radio beacons and UAV. Their technical solution is easy to use and capable of searching in any weather environment and operating autonomously for a long period in the event of absence of cell communication.

Moscow team “MMS Rescue” offered a network of search beacons to solve the task. According to the jury estimates, this technology won the first place in nominations “the best portable” and “the best independent solution”. A number of beacons with 1.5-2 m spacing are distributed within the search area. The beacons are equipped with the two-way voice and technical radio communication system, geopositioning system, pulse light source, loud speakers, self-powered system, and a compartment for survival kits. This technology allows high performance with minimal human participation under any weather conditions.

Basic criteria we used in the development included: low cost and ease of use, so that any non-technical specialist could use our product,” says Sergey Zhuzhgov, leader of MMS Rescue team.

The team from Saint-Petersburg “Vershina” designed their own software to provide for the autonomous operation of two multirotor UAVs. One UAV is equipped with a thermal imaging camera allowing automatic selection of thermal objects. The second UAV equipped with a high-resolution camera is manually directed to the points where the objects have been detected to make a detailed survey.
Leader of the team Aleksey Grishaev admitted that at the start of the competition the task seemed to be less complicated: “We tried to search people in our forests, and the pine forest is perfectly visible via thermal camera both in summer and winter. However, in the leafy forest of Kaluga Region we were faced with completely different conditions.”

To solve the task of the competition, Moscow team “Stratonauts” offered a search and rescue package composed of an UAV and a number of rescue radio beacons. The specific feature of the solution is that all package components are integrated into a single radio network where each unit serves as a retransmitter, which makes it possible to organize search on a large territory and seamlessly and simultaneously coordinate the operation of all components of the search and rescue system.

The qualification results showed that the technical solutions provided by the teams could significantly increase the efficiency of search and rescue operations in forests. Some of these solutions have already been tested in real search and rescue operations. The Charity Fund “Sistema” allotted a RUB 20 mln grant for the design improvement.

Talking to the teams, Grigory Sergeev, Expert and Chairman of the “Liza Alert” Rescue Crew, stressed the importance of their work: “You create a solution that is going to be used not only inside the Russian Federation. You are making a breakthrough for the whole world. Most part of the earth is covered with forests where searching operations are difficult or entirely impossible. Thanks to our technologies, we can make the very same breakthrough to change the situation.”

Final tests of the Odyssey competition will be conducted in the fall 2019. The teams will have to prove the effectiveness of their solutions in real conditions. The time limit for the tests is 10 hours, and search zone radius will be at least 10 km.

R.I.M. Communications Agency has been providing support for the “Odyssey” Project initiated by Sistema (System) Charity Fund since 2018.