Feasibility of Discriminating UAV Propellers Noise from Distress Signals to Locate People in Enclosed Environments Using MEMS Microphone Arrays

Sensors (Basel). 2020 Jan 21;20(3):597. doi: 10.3390/s20030597.


Detecting and finding people are complex tasks when visibility is reduced. This happens, for example, if a fire occurs. In these situations, heat sources and large amounts of smoke are generated. Under these circumstances, locating survivors using thermal or conventional cameras is not possible and it is necessary to use alternative techniques. The challenge of this work was to analyze if it is feasible the integration of an acoustic camera, developed at the University of Valladolid, on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to locate, by sound, people who are calling for help, in enclosed environments with reduced visibility. The acoustic array, based on MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical system) microphones, locates acoustic sources in space, and the UAV navigates autonomously by closed enclosures. This paper presents the first experimental results locating the angles of arrival of multiple sound sources, including the cries for help of a person, in an enclosed environment. The results are promising, as the system proves able to discriminate the noise generated by the propellers of the UAV, at the same time it identifies the angles of arrival of the direct sound signal and its first echoes reflected on the reflective surfaces.

Keywords: Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); acoustic array; enclosed environments; environments with reduced visibility; people localization.

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Micro-Electrical-Mechanical Systems / methods*
  • Remote Sensing Technology / methods*