Body cameras, live streaming bring search and

New digital tools developed and tested at Simon Fraser University have the potential to revolutionize wilderness search and rescue efforts.

Developed at the SFU School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), the RescueCASTR system equips rescuers with 360-degree body cameras that send live video and photos to a central command post.

Visiting researcher and PhD student Brennan Jones of the University of Calgary built the system under the supervision of Carman Neustaedter of SIAT and Anthony Tang of the University of Toronto.

The system allows the search commander to track multiple teams at once, coordinate efforts, and gain on-the-ground insight into nature conditions and clues.

“Our goal is to explore ways to bridge command and field perspectives through new technologies and information flows,” Jones says.

Typically, wilderness search and rescue teams use radio, in-person briefings, text messaging, drones, and paper forms to communicate and coordinate their efforts.

However, those working in the command post usually have little more than verbal communication and maps to rely on to understand what field teams may be experiencing in the field at the moment.

For example, someone coordinating search parties at command may not know that a path they have suggested on a map may be inaccessible because they cannot see the extent of damage to the terrain after a flood. or a landslide.

RescueCASTR is designed to give command more implicit knowledge of events and conditions on the ground, which can lead to better decision-making during a search where time can be critical to a successful rescue.

The platform does this by sending teams into the field with at least one of their members wearing a body camera that periodically broadcasts live video or sequential photos on command, allowing them to view the live footage or explore past pictures.

Rescue teams can also leave notes on photos of interest and command can track the locations of field teams on a map with a timeline view of their progress.

Back at the controls, coordinators use an interactive program that combines all 3D map data, each field team’s live feed, and a timeline of milestones and photos to quickly track field efforts and review video footage. .

The work was conducted through participatory design approaches which saw Jones working with local SAR teams throughout Metro Vancouver, including interviews with them about their work practices and observations of simulated searches.

Once created, the system was evaluated by SAR members themselves during simulated wilderness search and rescue scenarios.

the the results have been published in the magazine PACM on human-computer interaction earlier this month.

“Search and rescue operations take place all year round and are often life-saving. It is very important that SAR team members have ways to easily share the information they encounter in order to productively search and find missing persons in the wild,” says Neustaedter. “Our ongoing work explores new and innovative ways to use wearable cameras and drone technologies.”


BRANNAN JONES, visiting scholar, School of Interactive Arts and Technology and former doctoral student; University of Calgary | [email protected]

CARMAN NEUSTAEDTER, Dean, Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology; Professor, School of Interactive Arts and Technologies | [email protected]


MATT KIELTYKASFU Communications and Marketing
236.880.2187 | [email protected]

Simon Fraser University
Communications & Marketing | SFU Media Experts Directory


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Brandon D. James