Drone-mounted AI technology will enhance the search for missing people

The technology is thought to be the first of its kind in use in the UK

Ground-breaking artificial intelligence (AI) technology be- ing developed in Scotland will soon enhance Police Scotland’s use of drones to find missing and vulnerable people. Te technology, thought to

be the first of its kind used by police forces in the UK, is a form of machine learning that provides real-time image analysis for identifying humans in rural areas. It has been developed by a consortium of partners compris- ing of Tales UK, the University of the West of Scotland, CENSIS, and Police Scotland. With core AI development

work complete and trials of the new system already underway, the project team expects the remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) technology to be deployed in searches for missing and vul- nerable people in Scotland in the near future. Computers with very large

amounts of data processing power were previously required to run similar technology, ren- dering it immobile. However, the specifically designed algorithms developed in this project can be

used on a smartphone or tablet connected to an RPAS. Trained with hundreds of

hours of footage of officers in different clothing, positions, and situations at police premises, the AI scours an image and can locate a person within seconds at a distance of up to 150 metres. Te system is twice as fast as other state-of-the-art algorithms and its ability to recognise a human is enhanced the more it is used. Te RPAS is operated by a

specially trained officer on the ground, while another officer receives a real-time video feed from the RPAS cameras on a smartphone. Te incorpora- tion of the AI technology will help Police Scotland cover large areas of ground in the search for a missing person, reducing the need for lengthy and meticulous checks from teams of officers on the ground.

Although initially being employed in the search for missing and vulnerable people, the technol- ogy could potentially be used in a variety of other applications, including monitoring wildlife on land and at sea. Inspector Nicholas Whyte,

Police Scotland Air Support Unit, said: “Te use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems in an opera- tional policing environment is still a relatively new field and this collaboration presents a unique


The AI scours an image and can locate a person within seconds at a distance of up to 150 metres

opportunity for Police Scotland to be involved in the development of new technology which will enhance the service delivered to the people of Scotland.” Prof. Carl Schaschke, Dean

of the School of Computing, Engineering & Physical Sciences at UWS, said: “UWS is proud in leading this exciting project to address a real-world challenge through a ground-breaking solu- tion for the national public safety. Te UWS team led by Professors Jose Alcaraz Calero and Qi Wang has showed their expertise as well as passion in delivering first-class research to help society. Trough collaboration with a group of prominent partners including Tales UK, Police Scotland, and CENSIS, this high-profile UWS project will have a significant im-

pact on the research in this field and contribute to the university’s research and enterprise strate- gies.” Craig Fleming, Senior Business

Development Manager at CENSIS, said: “Te project is pushing the boundaries of machine learn- ing. It’s testament to the depth of technical skills and knowledge in Scotland’s academic institutions and businesses that this pioneer- ing technology is being developed here. Once commercialised, the system has huge potential in a wide variety of sectors. Tis is another example of how Scot- land is becoming hub of exciting developments in the use of AI in imaging, with a range of aca- demic and industry partnerships developing new capabilities and products.” l

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