ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A Central New Mexico Community College student is hoping to simplify search and rescue missions. He has developed a new device in one of his classes that could end searches much quicker “Helicopters flying in and then tethering someone and then pulling them out but sometimes that’s not a viable option,” said Saige Martinez.

Inside the demo beacon there’s a GPS unit, a heart rate monitor, and a blood oxygen sensor, all of which are controlled by a Particle Argon microcontroller. Courtesy CNM

Martinez developed another option for search and rescue missions, “A drone delivered, search and rescue beacon,” Martinez says. The 26-year-old developed the beacon prototype during a tech course at CNM called the Internet of Things Bootcamp. “Currently it’s in a foam ball that we carved out slots for the electronics to sit in,” Martinez says.

The foam ball, which is covered in led lights, is connected to a drone. “We’ll fly the drone into the location that the lost person is believed to be, the drone has a little dropping mechanism and so it’s able to release this beacon,” says the Internet of Things instructor, Brian Rashap.

Those lights last for days and can be seen from a distance. When the lost person finds the beacon they push a GPS button and their location is immediately sent to first responders. “It sends the heart rate of the lost individual. It sends the blood oxygen levels, so this gets updated in real-time from the beacon,” Rashap said.

Martinez is an active member of the National Guard and he says he wanted to meet the needs of first responders and help people in crisis. “It could drop from a drone to a rough terrain and survive the impact and still accomplish the mission,” Martinez says.

Now, Martinez is collaborating with Albuquerque Police Department‘s Open Space officers on how to best develop the beacon, “Their input is going to transform this device,” Martinez says. He’s hoping one day first responders everywhere will be able to use it. Developers say the next version of the beacon will be bigger and will carry food as well as a mylar rescue blanket.