Israel using new tech in efforts to rescue trapped workers

Res-Q-Cell system developed by Israel Aerospace Industries helps find disaster victims by locating their cellphones; teams also equipped with fiber-optic cables, cameras with voice and visuals

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Israeli rescue workers at the site where a building collapsed in Tel Aviv's Ramat Hahayal neighborhood, September 6, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli rescue workers at the site where a building collapsed in Tel Aviv's Ramat Hahayal neighborhood, September 6, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Israeli rescue teams working at a collapsed Tel Aviv parking garage are using a mix of fiber-optic cables, cameras with voice and visuals, and new technology that tracks cellphones to pinpoint the location of trapped victims, Col. Ramtin Sabti, head of the Jerusalem and Central District of the IDF Homefront Command, said Tuesday.

A fourth body was retrieved from the rubble of a collapsed underground parking garage in the Ramat Hahayal neighborhood of Tel Aviv Tuesday afternoon, as emergency response personnel continued to search for three more construction workers believed to be trapped underground.

At least 20 people were injured when the structure collapsed Monday morning. The IDF said 500 soldiers and officers were involved in the rescue efforts alongside a number of civilian organizations.

The new technology to track cellphones, used for the first time in a real disaster area, helped save one of the trapped victims after the collapse Monday, Sabti said.

Produced by the Israel Aerospace Industries to specifications provided by the Homefront Command, the Res-Q-Cell cellular search and rescue system is in its final stages of development.

The system is designed to locate survivors in disaster areas by issuing signals that activate and detect cellular devices, and can do so even when cellular networks collapse. The Res-Q-Cell system supports all sorts of global cellular networks.

Once the cellphones within the wreckage area are activated and detected, the system can provide a highly accurate, three-dimensional mapping of the location of the victims, the IAI said in June when it first introduced the product.

The level of precision of the system, which can pinpoint a phone within a radius of less than a meter, is higher than cellular locators used in the civilian sector, Sabti said. It also allows operators to scan much larger areas – about 100 square meters at a time, he said. In the case of the collapsed four-story underground parking structure, identifying the depth of the missing victims presented an additional challenge for the system, Sabti said.

In addition to the Res-Q-Cell, a variety of optic cables and seismic and sound technologies were being used to track movement and sounds coming from under the rubble.

“We know from previous experience that the trapped victims cannot always shout because of the conditions and the dust that clogs their airways,” Sabti said. “So all they can do is scratch at the cement slabs that surround them.”

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