MIT develops ocean search and rescue algorithm to help find missing objects and people

The sea is vast, and it can be difficult to find missing objects and people in it. To help with search-and-rescue missions, MIT has developed a new algorithm that can help identify hidden “traps” in the ocean, areas where floats can congregate. The researchers say this approach could help quickly identify objects and areas where missing persons may congregate.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology worked with researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Virginia Institute of Technology to develop the new technology. The researchers hope the technology will help first responders quickly identify areas where missing objects or people may exist at sea. The algorithm analyzes ocean conditions, such as ocean currents, sea breezes, and the intensity and direction of waves, and identifies in real time the areas where the most attractive floating objects are concentrated in the ocean.

The team demonstrated the technology in several field experiments, deploying drifters and humanoid models at different locations in the ocean. They found that over a period of time, these objects would migrate to the areas predicted by the algorithm, which, based on current ocean conditions, were algorithmically predicted to be attractive. The algorithm can be applied to existing marine conditions models, allowing rescue teams to quickly discover hidden “traps” that the ocean may direct to where missing persons can go missing at any given time.

The new tools can be run on a variety of models to determine the location of these traps, where search and rescue teams can locate missing persons or stranded vessels in areas where the floats may have gathered. The team developed a methodology to interpret complex ocean flows using advanced, data-driven marine modeling and prediction systems. The model uses the “European Rally” approach instead of the most commonly used “Langerangday” approach.

These mathematical techniques involve the integration of ocean velocity snapshots caused by waves and currents to slowly generate the trajectory of missing persons or objects that may be carried. This method is called TRAPS, an abbreviation for Transient Attracting Profiles.

MIT develops ocean search and rescue algorithm to help find missing objects and people