March 8, 2021

Albatross, the new system of geolocation of castaways | Technology


Albatrosses are large seabirds that cover enormous distances with little effort. And Albatross is the name that has given Notary Mechanical & Engineering, in collaboration with Salvamento Marítimo de España, to its new device to effectively find castaways. The application, which was presented this morning in Madrid, uses infrared technology for thermal cameras that allow automatic detection and geolocation of people at sea in adverse conditions.

Albatross will mean a revolution for the search of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in harsh conditions and unreliable vessels with the hope of reaching Spain or other European countries. A total of 581 people have lost their lives in the first six months of 2019 in the three main routes of the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy and Greece), according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

At 17 degrees of temperature, the survival of a person in the water is between 1 hour and a half and 2 hours and, therefore, the speed of action and accuracy are fundamental factors in rescues. The Albatross cameras allow a global vision of the sea. "The system (which is located in the aircraft) is more effective at a distance of 800 feet and the field of vision is 1 kilometer and a half to 2 kilometers. If the plane or the helicopter fly higher, the margin of accuracy is reduced, "explains Ángel Escribano, CEO of Escribano Mechanical & Engineering.

Before the continuous wave of migrants, in 2015 Salvamento Marítimo de España began looking for companies that wanted to develop a more effective instrument to locate people at sea. Despite the modern cameras and search devices that are used in Spain, the human eye is the one that detected the shipwrecked. With this system you only need the device on the plane, a cable and a reception screen and the location of the person to be rescued will appear exactly, the program is profitable for Maritime Rescue due to savings in flight hours.

At 17 degrees of temperature, the survival of a person in the water is between 1 hour and a half and 2 hours and, therefore, the speed of action and accuracy are fundamental factors in rescues

"Maritime Rescue of Spain It has financed 100% of the project and they have put at their disposal their aircraft to test the product, "says Escribano. The company has tested it during 400 hours of helicopter flight and 200 hours of flight and they were calibrating the system to work with precision. "As the device is already finalized and tested, a public contest will be held at the end of the year," he adds.

In addition to the camera, the device of only 2.7 kilograms in weight, has an intelligent electronic system. An algorithm detects the temperature degrees and the size of the person and is based on speed and height. A certain number of pixels in the image means that it is a head, if it is larger it is assumed that it is a sheet that is heated or spilled. The algorithm starts operating at more than 20 degrees. It calculates the height and speed of the aircraft and marks the location of any mass that is between 20 and 37 degrees (the body temperature of a human being). The device is made of aluminum. It could be manufactured with carbon fiber but it would be too light. In addition, "it is not necessary to make it smaller because the three processors that go inside would not fit and in addition space is needed to dissipate the interior heat of the cubicle," Escribano explains.

The CEO of the company points out that several countries interested in the device have contacted Escribano Mechanical & Engineering. Among them, the Royal Navy of Morocco (Royal Navy), which collaborates directly with Salvamento Marítimo de España.

A device created "by young people"

Below left, the Albatross device in a Maritime Rescue helicopter.


Below left, the Albatross device in a Maritime Rescue helicopter.

Escribano Mechanical & Enginieering is a company that manufactures remote weapon stations (but not weapons). Angel Escribano, CEO of the company, explains that his father founded it in 1987. At that time they manufactured parts for industrial sectors and repaired industrial and agricultural machinery. Between 1995 and 1997 the company turned to aeronautical constructions and technological development (cameras and lenses). In 2011 they installed the factory in Alcalá de Henares (Madrid). "The average age of the company is 32 years," says Escribano. He advocates retaining talent at home and for R + D + i because he says that "this device and many others are created by young people." He adds that "it is not necessary to leave Spain to buy anything, all we need are the opportunities to be able to demonstrate our talent", concludes Escribano.

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