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A drone startup is to save lives in an avalanche emergency

In an avalanche, time is the enemy. The “Powderbee” could help to locate avalanche victims faster.

The “Powderbee” fits in every backpack. In avalanche emergency just press a button. The drone recognizes the signal of the conventional avalanche transceiver (LVS). It flies autonomously and systematically over the avalanche cone. By landing, she indicates where a buried person is under the snow. The comrades can start directly with the fine search and go faster to the actual rescue.

Developed out of self-interest

The inventors of the drone are enthusiastic snow athletes. In avalanche courses, they learned how conventional comrade rescue works. But they were not completely satisfied with the learning. “We doubted if we could do it in a stressful situation. That’s when we came up with the idea: Could not a part of it be automated? “Recalls Konstantin Kollar, co-founder of the startup.

Because time is the biggest enemy in an emergency. The chance of recovering buried victims decreases rapidly after 15 minutes.

Lawinentote Switzerland open personal box close personal box Legend: Survive probability of buried persons. SLF An average of 119 avalanche accidents occur in Switzerland every year. 205 people are covered by an avalanche every year. 22 people die each year the white death. This is shown by the figures of the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research from 1997 – 2017.

The development of the prototype took three years. The startup was already able to fly in a first success. At the largest sporting goods fair in Europe, the founders won the prize for one of the most promising new developments.

Chance and skepticism

Potential customers of the “Powderbee” are snow sportspeople who move off the piste. For participants of an avalanche prevention course in Davos, the drone attracts interest as well as skepticism. The drone is a good thing, it can save lives, says participant Linus-Laurin Niedermann. Fabienne Fuhrmann appreciates that investments in the development of new products are made. However, Ruedi Gamper fears that freeriders with a drone in the backpack in false security.

Mountain guide Stefan Bodenmann sees the potential to quickly locate victims. Everyone still has to master the WMS. When saving time, he remains skeptical: “The main problem is the excavation of the buried. I lose most of my time there. ”

Drones for professional mountain rescue

Safety expert Ueli Mosimann records the emergency statistics for the Swiss Alpine Club SAC. He doubts that drones will soon be standard equipment for ski tourers. It was an additional, sensitive, technical device that needed to be carried up the mountain. Nevertheless, he sees great potential in development: “For professional mountain rescue this is certainly the thing of the future. The drone is accurate and can shorten the search by a few minutes. ”

The “Powderbee” is not yet available for purchase. For the serial production an investor is missing. The developers hope that they will come into the market next winter season. At the same time, they continue to tinker. Her dream: A drone, which is catapulted out of the backpack during the avalanche decline and directly follows the signal of the snow sportsman. Despite all the euphoria, however, co-founder Kollar warns: «The principle remains despite the drone. The safest departure is when no avalanche arrives. »

Published inStartupsTechnology

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