Simulation Analysis of Exploration Strategies and UAV Planning for Search and Rescue

Phuoc Nguyen Thuan, Jorge Peña Queralta, Tomi Westerlund

Aerial scans with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming more widely adopted across industries, from smart farming to urban mapping. An application area that can leverage the strength of such systems is search and rescue (SAR) operations. However, with a vast variability in strategies and topology of application scenarios, as well as the difficulties in setting up real-world UAV-aided SAR operations for testing, designing an optimal flight pattern to search for and detect all victims can be a challenging problem. Specifically, the deployed UAV should be able to scan the area in the shortest amount of time while maintaining high victim detection recall rates. Therefore, low probability of false negatives (i.e., high recall) is more important than precision in this case. To address the issues mentioned above, we have developed a simulation environment that emulates different SAR scenarios and allows experimentation with flight missions to provide insight into their efficiency. The solution was developed with the open-source ROS framework and Gazebo simulator, with PX4 as the autopilot system for flight control, and YOLO as the object detector.