NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) have teamed up to create technology that may help locate firefighters inside buildings. 

On Tuesday, the companies introduced the event of the Precision Outdoor and Indoor Navigation and Tracking for Emergency Responders (POINTER) system, which was devised to help locate and observe firefighters inside constructions the place different positioning applied sciences are ineffective.


The thought was conceptualized in 2014 and the know-how is now being matured to be used across the nation, according to a NASA release

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

Radiolocation, radio-frequency identification, acoustic sensors and GPS usually lose sign in line-of-sight denied environments, according to S&T.

“This presents a significant difference to how remote wave-based position sensing works and performs,” JPL senior analysis technologist Darmindra Arumugam mentioned. “Whereas radio waves become blocked, reflected, and attenuated by the metal, cement, and brick materials in buildings, magnetoquasistatic fields do not. They pass straight through walls, creating a means to navigate and communicate when direct line of sight is not available.”

MQS fields are electromagnetic fields that, whereas usually disregarded due to fast drop-off as a operate of distance, had been ready to be virtually harnessed utilizing decrease frequencies.

They say that MQS fields can even have makes use of off of Earth, together with long-range know-how used to function NASA space robotic initiatives.


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

The firefighter would put on the receiver and a transmitter that generates the MQS fields can be connected to emergency automobiles exterior of the constructing and observe any receivers situated inside a constructing at a spread of 230 toes or extra.

The information 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 is composed of three parts: a receiver, transmitter, and base station. Clockwise from left: The receiver prototype is worn by firefighters and communicates with the transmitter coil, which was attached to an out-of-service firetruck for testing purposes. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DHS S&T

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

POINTER also can decide whether or not a firefighter is standing up or mendacity down, nonetheless transferring and wherein route they face.

S&T, JPL and business accomplice Balboa Geolocation Inc. have labored with firefighters at Massachusetts’ Worcester Fire Department to take a look at the system, and the workforce plans to conduct additional demonstrations and a stay stream of a take a look at later this 12 months.

A industrial model of POINTER can be made accessible to hearth departments by subsequent 12 months.


“Accurately tracking and locating first responders when they enter dangerous environments has been the number one priority for the emergency response community,” S&T first responder portfolio supervisor Greg Price instructed Fox News in an e-mail on Wednesday. “For the past decade, firefighters have challenged industry, academia and government to develop a technology that can accurately track and locate firefighters and other first responders inside buildings and structures.”

“This groundbreaking technology will allow downed, disoriented and trapped firefighters to be quickly located and extracted from dangerous and potentially fatal environments they work in,” he mentioned. “Bottom line, POINTER will save lives as it gets deployed and used by departments and agencies across the country.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *