Project Title: Automated Rescue Launch Canister System for EMILY

Hydronalix logoTeam 15007 Members:
Benjamin Bell, mechanical engineering
Joseph Lamont, mechanical engineering
Kevin Morris, electrical and computer engineering
Devin Slack, electrical and computer engineering
Colton Sviba, systems engineering
Benjamin Yates, electrical and computer engineering

Project Title: Sonar Module Integration for EMILY Rescue Robot

Team 15008 Members:
Jeremy Burris, industrial engineering
Jordan Driggs, mechanical engineering
Uriel Garcia, electrical and computer engineering
Matthew Sybrant, systems engineering
Jessica Toll, mechanical engineering

Sponsor: Hydronalix

Life-Saving Remote Control Buoy

EMILY lifesaving system inside high-visibility cover.About 100 Americans die every year fighting rip currents. Swimming a few strokes parallel to the beach – to the edge of the typically narrow-channel flow – and catching a wave back to shore is the best escape route. However, inexperienced swimmers tend to panic when they feel as though they are being sucked out to sea and struggle futilely against the current.

EMILY to the rescue.

The Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard, or EMILY, isn’t fazed by stormy weather, cold water or rough surf. With a top speed of 22 mph, the remote-control rescue buoy can reach endangered swimmers up to six times faster than a human lifeguard and handle up to six people at a time, a feature that proved its worth when the robot aided in the 2015 rescue of 300 Syrian migrants near the Greek island of Lesbos.

Swimmers use the boat-like buoy to stay afloat until a rescue raft arrives or hold onto a rope around EMILY’s hull as it is guided back to shore.

EMILY is manufactured by Hydronalix, a company based in Sahuarita, Arizona, that sponsored two 2016 UA Engineering Design Program projects to refine the robot’s capabilities. Team 15007 developed a self-contained canister to automate deployment and help direct the buoy. Team 15008, which earned the W.L. Gore and Associates Award for Most Creative Solution, designed a sonar addition for underwater search and rescue.

Making a Good Thing Better

Although EMILY is relatively light, heaving 25 pounds off a coastal pier isn’t easy. So Team 15007 created an automated launch system. The setup relies on two infrared cameras to penetrate darkness, fog and heavy rain; locate struggling swimmers; and initiate launch of the buoy.

When the cameras, mounted on a pan-tilt unit on EMILY’s canister, spot a person in distress, actuators hoist the canister to the angle needed for EMILY to clear the pier, the canister’s front door opens, and the buoy slides out on rollers into the water. Once EMILY hits the water, leaving the canister behind, one camera stays fixed on the victim while the other focuses on the buoy, enabling rescuers to use coordinates for guidance.

Going Even Deeper

Murky waters can be dangerous for divers. In a separate application, Team 15008 integrated a Humminbird sonar into EMILY and mounted a waterproof camera on its bow to deliver real-time video to mobile devices, turning the robot into an underwater search and recovery device that scans for and identifies submerged objects.

Hydronalix CEO Tony Mulligan envisions the sonar-equipped version of EMILY as an early warning device in shark-infested waters like those off the Southern California coast. Instead of relying on costly aerial reconnaissance, authorities can deploy EMILY to areas where the great white sharks may be, and if they’re spotted, lifeguards can clear the water of swimmers and close nearby beaches.

Mission Accomplished

Mulligan, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Arizona in 1988 and has been named to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and The Lemelson Foundation’s 2016-2017 Class of Invention Ambassadors, praised the teams for their hard work and professionalism, saying, “They’ll become excellent engineers.”