NASA’s JPL and DHS develop tech to assist find firefighters inside burning buildings

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the U.S. Division of Homeland Safety Science and Know-how Directorate (S&T) have teamed as much as create know-how that may assist find firefighters inside buildings. 

On Tuesday, the companies introduced the event of the Precision Outside and Indoor Navigation and Monitoring for Emergency Responders (POINTER) system, which was devised to assist find and monitor firefighters inside constructions the place different positioning applied sciences are ineffective.


The concept was conceptualized in 2014 and the know-how is now being matured to be used across the nation, based on a NASA launch

Notably, POINTER makes use of magnetoquasistatic (MQS) fields as an alternative of radio waves.

Radiolocation, radio-frequency identification, acoustic sensors and GPS typically lose sign in line-of-sight denied environments, based on S&T.

“This presents a major distinction to how distant wave-based place sensing works and performs,” JPL senior analysis technologist Darmindra Arumugam mentioned. “Whereas radio waves develop into blocked, mirrored, and attenuated by the steel, cement, and brick supplies in buildings, magnetoquasistatic fields don’t. They move straight via partitions, creating a way to navigate and talk when direct line of sight will not be accessible.”

MQS fields are electromagnetic fields that, whereas usually disregarded on account of speedy drop-off as a operate of distance, had been in a position to be virtually harnessed utilizing decrease frequencies.

They are saying that MQS fields will even have makes use of off of Earth, together with long-range know-how used to function NASA area robotic tasks.


The system is manufactured from three elements together with a receiver, transmitter and base station.

The firefighter would put on the receiver and a transmitter that generates the MQS fields could be hooked up to emergency automobiles outdoors of the constructing and monitor any receivers positioned inside a constructing at a spread of 230 ft or extra.

The info that comes again is then despatched to a base station, like a pc, and 3D visualization software program reveals the place the firefighter is, inside an accuracy of centimeters.

POINTER consists of three elements: a receiver, transmitter, and base station. Clockwise from left: The receiver prototype is worn by firefighters and communicates with the transmitter coil, which was hooked up to an out-of-service firetruck for testing functions. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DHS S&T
(NASA/JPL-Caltech/DHS S&T)

POINTER may also decide whether or not a firefighter is standing up or mendacity down, nonetheless transferring and during which course they face.

S&T, JPL and trade associate Balboa Geolocation Inc. have labored with firefighters at Massachusetts’ Worcester Hearth Division to check the system, and the group plans to conduct additional demonstrations and a reside stream of a check later this yr.

A industrial model of POINTER might be made accessible to fireplace departments by subsequent yr.


“Precisely monitoring and finding first responders once they enter harmful environments has been the primary precedence for the emergency response group,” S&T first responder portfolio supervisor Greg Value instructed Fox Information in an electronic mail on Wednesday. “For the previous decade, firefighters have challenged trade, academia and authorities to develop a know-how that may precisely monitor and find firefighters and different first responders inside buildings and constructions.”

“This groundbreaking know-how will permit downed, disoriented and trapped firefighters to be shortly positioned and extracted from harmful and doubtlessly deadly environments they work in,” he mentioned. “Backside line, POINTER will save lives because it will get deployed and utilized by departments and companies throughout the nation.”

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