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  1. #1
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    The Future of Avalanche Beacons: Thermal Imaging and Ground Penetrating Radar

    Hey Guys,

    I've been attending the International Snow Science Workshop all week at Squaw. It's been a great booze & schmooze, but there is also some intense information being thrown around.

    What really caught my eye was their use of thermal imaging and ground penetrating radar. I wrote a quick article on it at http://www.unofficialsquaw.com/index...me/4/5908.html lemme know what you guys think.

    I am confident that in the future we'll have these technologies available to us in the mountains. It will make finding avalanche victims much much easier and may even make snowpack analysis a breeze. Either way it's going to be very interesting to watch this research and technology develop.

    I know that there are some super tech savvy guys on here and I'd be curious to hear your take on all this.

    Some pretty awesome schtuff.
    'on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.' So I got that goin' for me,....which is nice!

  2. #2
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    I stumbled upon a peer-reviewed article regarding this subject while researching for a class. I haven't had a chance to look at it, but if anyone's interested in sifting through the technical jargon, the article was called "Experiments and Algorithms to Detect Snow Avalanche Victims Using Airborne Ground-Penetrating Radar". The study was done by Fruehauf, F.; Heilig, A.; Schneebeli, M.; Fellin, W.; and Scherzer, O.

    However, unless you have access to articles through school, etc. you have to pay for access to the full-text.

  3. #3
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    pretty cool! kudos to the nerds of the world!! may you save us from ourselves
    ‹^› ‹(•Ώ•)› ‹^›

  4. #4
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    Now think about analyzing the snowpack. Some day there may be a small radar device that you bring with you in the backcountry. When you find a good area for analyzing the snowpack, you bust out the radar and grab some readings. This radar sends signals down into the snow, they reflect back up to the device and presto, you get a full snowpack analysis. Software in that radar device will translate the radar information into proper snowpack nomenclature that lets you know where weak layers are, where strong layers are, and what the overall avalanche danger is in that particular snowpack. This would be huge. Instead of having to dig snow pits, dig small hand pits, or probe you could just use this device and have high quality information in seconds. It would also be highly usefull in determining spatial variability in a snowpack and be great for cross checking information extrapolated from hand dug snow pits.

    WOOOO HOOOOO would that be the ballz
    thanks for sharing the article. so Buck Rodgers.
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.”
    Hunter S. Thompson

  5. #5
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    I'm conducting my PhD on snow properties and using this type of technology.

    We are unfortunately, as an extremely conservative estimate, at least a decade (more likely two or more) away from this happening.

    The technology is prohibitively expensive (upwards of $750,00 for an active microwave radar unit), and mostly only practical for research scientists such as myself.

    The technology is bulky. After decades of development, you currently need 2 skidoos, a sled, and 3 people to operate the proprietary equipment.

    With the way that radar creates waves necessary to interpret snow parameters, there is a minimum antenna size requirement that cannot be made smaller (because of the laws of EM wave physics). The starting size is roughly the size of 2 loaves of bread (for GPR) and each unit is heavy. That is for the antenna only. The data acquisition system and computer to run the antennae is like carrying 3 desktop towers around with you, only heavier.

    Aside from that, the current microwave snow property inversion models are only in the infancy stages of development with regard to snowpacks.

    The most promising "quick fix" for snow pack stratigraphy and snow grain paramterization would be a proprietary $35,000 IR camera. You still have to dig a full snow pit, then you set up calibrated reflectance disks (about $5000 each x 6 disks; I'll let you do the math) and take a photo. Then you have to run the photo through an algorithm, that is still in the initial development stage, in a laptop to process the image and retrieve the snow parameters.

    There's also the snow micro-penetrometer; starts at about $35,000 for a basic setup. You need multiple heads, so add another $10,000 for good measure. It is bulky, but less so than the passive or active microwave or GPR units. Again, it's still in the infancy of development. You could go skiing for a day with one of these on your back, but it wouldn't be the type of skiing that you or I would enjoy. Primarily careful side-slipping as the motor drive unit, is still pretty heavy and it has a 2 m long shaft that would stick out. You also need multiple battery packs that add to the weight.



    Not to be a downer, but that's the reality of the situation. Right now the stuff you're talking about only exists as ideas and concepts in Popular Science.


    I'd compare the likelihood of having a handheld snow Ir/Radar device today, as about likely to the availability of a handheld Star Trek type communicator,...in the 1960's.



    I have literally hundreds of pier reviewed journal articles in my office right now on these very subjects.
    Last edited by iscariot; 10-20-2010 at 09:23 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Socialist View Post
    They have socalized healthcare up in canada. The whole country is 100% full of pot smoking pro-athlete alcoholics.

  6. #6
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    ^^^ Buzzkiller

  7. #7
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    Mind numbing......but thanks a lot for your passion about this.
    Fuckin' shit up since 1964

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by telebobski View Post
    ^^^ Buzzkiller
    You're right...


    I was actually down at the local REI yesterday and bought an all-in-one IR/Radar/snow micro-pen/gpr for about 40 bucks. It's about the size of an iphone.




    is that better?

    Quote Originally Posted by Socialist View Post
    They have socalized healthcare up in canada. The whole country is 100% full of pot smoking pro-athlete alcoholics.

  9. #9
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    ^^that's the one with the UV light that makes poop safe to drink too, right?

  10. #10
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    Also doubles as a flask and an avalung.

    The real bonus is the concierge that comes with it to arrange for the hookers and blow.




    Buuuut. 40 bucks is kind of expensive, so I think I'm gonna return it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Socialist View Post
    They have socalized healthcare up in canada. The whole country is 100% full of pot smoking pro-athlete alcoholics.

  11. #11
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    Iscariot, I'm stoked that you think there's a chance it may only be 10 years off! I am thinking similar to you, more like 20-25 years off. Even then I think it will take some serious breakthroughs. Thanks for your input on where we are right now with this technology as it relates to Avalanches. We all appreciate what you guys are doing out there. And yeah, the article is meant to be Popular Science-esque. I really think this stuff is fun to dream/think about.
    'on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.' So I got that goin' for me,....which is nice!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by iscariot View Post
    I'm conducting my PhD on snow properties and using this type of technology.

    We are unfortunately, as an extremely conservative estimate, at least a decade (more likely two or more) away from this happening.

    The technology is prohibitively expensive (upwards of $750,00 for an active microwave radar unit), and mostly only practical for research scientists such as myself.

    The technology is bulky. After decades of development, you currently need 2 skidoos, a sled, and 3 people to operate the proprietary equipment.

    With the way that radar creates waves necessary to interpret snow parameters, there is a minimum antenna size requirement that cannot be made smaller (because of the laws of EM wave physics). The starting size is roughly the size of 2 loaves of bread (for GPR) and each unit is heavy. That is for the antenna only. The data acquisition system and computer to run the antennae is like carrying 3 desktop towers around with you, only heavier.

    Aside from that, the current microwave snow property inversion models are only in the infancy stages of development with regard to snowpacks.

    The most promising "quick fix" for snow pack stratigraphy and snow grain paramterization would be a proprietary $35,000 IR camera. You still have to dig a full snow pit, then you set up calibrated reflectance disks (about $5000 each x 6 disks; I'll let you do the math) and take a photo. Then you have to run the photo through an algorithm, that is still in the initial development stage, in a laptop to process the image and retrieve the snow parameters.

    There's also the snow micro-penetrometer; starts at about $35,000 for a basic setup. You need multiple heads, so add another $10,000 for good measure. It is bulky, but less so than the passive or active microwave or GPR units. Again, it's still in the infancy of development. You could go skiing for a day with one of these on your back, but it wouldn't be the type of skiing that you or I would enjoy. Primarily careful side-slipping as the motor drive unit, is still pretty heavy and it has a 2 m long shaft that would stick out. You also need multiple battery packs that add to the weight.



    Not to be a downer, but that's the reality of the situation. Right now the stuff you're talking about only exists as ideas and concepts in Popular Science.


    I'd compare the likelihood of having a handheld snow Ir/Radar device today, as about likely to the availability of a handheld Star Trek type communicator,...in the 1960's.



    I have literally hundreds of pier reviewed journal articles in my office right now on these very subjects.
    What I love about your post, and technology in general, is that at some time in the future human endeavour will ensure that the technologies you are describing will be accessible, cheap, pocketable and will save lives.

    Good for you for working on it, and I can't wait until it's all available as an iPhone app. Hope I'm still skiing then!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by iscariot View Post


    Buuuut. 40 bucks is kind of expensive, so I think I'm gonna return it.
    Wait until you brake it, you bought it at REI.
    a positive attitude will not solve all of your problems, but it may annoy enough people to make it worth the effort

    Formerly Rludes025

  14. #14
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    Not to sound dismissive, but I just can't see how thermal imaging works well when there is more than a couple feet of snow over the victim. Radar seems like a reasonable solution.

    Quote Originally Posted by iscariot View Post
    I'm conducting my PhD on snow properties and using this type of technology.
    With the way that radar creates waves necessary to interpret snow parameters, there is a minimum antenna size requirement that cannot be made smaller (because of the laws of EM wave physics). The starting size is roughly the size of 2 loaves of bread (for GPR) and each unit is heavy. That is for the antenna only. The data acquisition system and computer to run the antennae is like carrying 3 desktop towers around with you, only heavier.
    Glad that you actually found a way to make your job and education "force" you to go skiing. I can just see the pain of having to do "field tests." Hopefully you don't sit in the lab in front of a giant slab of ice and type everyday.

    1. MIMO antennas will prevail. It also seems like you are doing wider range or deeper penetration. It seems to me that small radius/range (less than 2m) would be useful enough to be portable. It's faster than probing at least.

    2. Your point about lugging the equipment around puzzles me. It's certainly feasible to send the acquired data via some form of wireless uplink (satellite, 802.11 WI-FI, mobile phone networks), remotely process them, and send the results back. Again, this limits you further to resort and sidecountry, but gets you closer to technical feasibility and/or deployment. (More importantly, graduation)

    3. Fundamentally, having a transponder/reflector seems to still be the best idea for me. If pinpointing the location is a problem, why not just ask the skier to wear two or three devices (transponder or reflector) to allow triangulation? I'm not sure how Recco works, but it can probably be improved by far if someone dug at the problem more.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by iscariot View Post
    I'd compare the likelihood of having a handheld snow Ir/Radar device today, as about likely to the availability of a handheld Star Trek type communicator,...in the 1960's.
    Cell phones ring a bell?

    but the real question is what ring tone will you get for when you find somebody?

  16. #16
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    Finding a buried beacon is the easy part. It's the shoveling that takes too long.

  17. #17
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    I would guess that datalink integrity would be the biggest issue in the back country.
    with the volume of data needed remote processing is a separate issue to be worked.
    interesting would be the IR amplification needed to ID the heat signature @ various depths and densities by GPR. a mixture of both perhaps. ID the density layers and process the individual temp gradients in the forecast/stability mode. and IR targeting and Depth range finding for rescue/recovery mode.. The Thermal Camera's we use in the fire service filter down for imaging. but the sensitivity is there.
    ps. am dying to use one of the older training camera's on the hill for sweep..

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by hitmanbob View Post
    Cell phones ring a bell?

    but the real question is what ring tone will you get for when you find somebody?
    Yes, but how prevalent were cell phones in the 1960's? That was my point. It was about 25 to 30 years later when cell phones started to become more common and available.
    Quote Originally Posted by Socialist View Post
    They have socalized healthcare up in canada. The whole country is 100% full of pot smoking pro-athlete alcoholics.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by keipow View Post
    Not to sound dismissive, but I just can't see how thermal imaging works well when there is more than a couple feet of snow over the victim. Radar seems like a reasonable solution.



    Glad that you actually found a way to make your job and education "force" you to go skiing. I can just see the pain of having to do "field tests." Hopefully you don't sit in the lab in front of a giant slab of ice and type everyday.

    1. MIMO antennas will prevail. It also seems like you are doing wider range or deeper penetration. It seems to me that small radius/range (less than 2m) would be useful enough to be portable. It's faster than probing at least.

    2. Your point about lugging the equipment around puzzles me. It's certainly feasible to send the acquired data via some form of wireless uplink (satellite, 802.11 WI-FI, mobile phone networks), remotely process them, and send the results back. Again, this limits you further to resort and sidecountry, but gets you closer to technical feasibility and/or deployment. (More importantly, graduation)

    3. Fundamentally, having a transponder/reflector seems to still be the best idea for me. If pinpointing the location is a problem, why not just ask the skier to wear two or three devices (transponder or reflector) to allow triangulation? I'm not sure how Recco works, but it can probably be improved by far if someone dug at the problem more.
    To clarify. The Avy beacon already uses the frequency and echolocation/triangulation that will best find buried people...THE FUTURE IS NOW!!!!

    I was speaking more specifically toward determining snow properties. If you up the frequency to radar or microwave for more precise location, the snow interacts with the em energy and can mask a buried person.

    I'll post more on this when I have time.
    Last edited by iscariot; 10-21-2010 at 07:16 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Socialist View Post
    They have socalized healthcare up in canada. The whole country is 100% full of pot smoking pro-athlete alcoholics.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by stalefish3169 View Post
    Finding a buried beacon is the easy part. It's the shoveling that takes too long.
    truth
    123
    I've got the key to the highway... I'm gonna leave here runnin', walkin's far too slow

  21. #21
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    We need a heat-generating device that would melt the snow and release the victim.

    Sharks with laser beams?

  22. #22
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    OK, if these guys can do a hand held fish finder for $75, this should be a snap. Water is water isn't it?? Water ='s Snow What's the problem?



    NORCROSS Portable "Hawkeye" Fish Finder
    NORCROSS Portable "Hawkeye" Fish Finder With "WeedID"



    The FF3355P is part of the newest generation of Portable Fish Finders. With a compact new design, more rugged construction, and Easy Touch Programming, the FF3355P is easier than ever to use. Simply toss the unique floating transducer from the shoreline, bridge, or boat and instant depth, fish, and bottom structure readings are in the palm of your hand.

    Absolute Portability... NorCross Marine Products is proud to introduce the latest in portable fish finder technology - the FF3355P. With dozens of new features including WeedID, Mountable and Side-Scanable Sonar Sensor, Headphone Type Sensor Plug, and 4 User Selectable Sensitivity Settings, the FF3355P is guaranteed to produce even bigger fish stories...

    To Use: Simply turn the power on, toss the unique floating sonar sensor from the shoreline, bridge, or boat and instant depth, fish, weed, and bottom contour readings are now in the palm of your hand.





    Compact, Palm-Sized Design - Fits in Your Tackle Box, Gear Bag, or Even In Your Pocket
    Depth, Fish, and Bottom Structure Readings from 1.5 to 99.9 Feet (.5 to 30.4 Meters)
    Instant Depth Updates to the Nearest 1/10th Foot or Meter, Updated Four Times Per Second
    NEW!!! User Selectable Feet or Meter Depth Readings
    Algorithmic Programming Reduces False Readings
    NEW!!! No Glare, Polarized VirtuView LCD Icon Display
    Fish Identifier, Depth Scale, and 2-Stage Audible Fish Alarm
    NEW!!! 4 User Selectable Sensitivity Settings
    Battery Strength Indicator with Battery Save Mode and Auto Power Off Make the Most Out of Battery Life
    NEW!!! WeedID Programming Accurately Depicts Weed Height
    Automatic Bottom Composition Detection
    2 Button EasyTouch Programming with Quick Reference Guide
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    Storage Bag and Adjustable Neck Strap
    NEW!!! Trollable, Mountable, and Floatable Sonar Sensor with 35 Feet (10.7 Meters) of Cable with Cable Tie-Strap
    ShootThru Sonar Technology Allows Readings to be Obtained Through Boat/Kayak/Canoe Hulls and Ice
    NEW!!! Ultra-Wide 45 Degree Sonar Beam Angle Has Twice The Coverage Area of Previous Models
    NEW!!! Compact Size and Powered by 4 ‘AAA’ Batteries
    NEW!!! Sonar Sensor SideScan Adapter Allows Sonar Direction Finding Under Weeds, Docks, Ice, Etc.
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    Two-Year Warranty
    In order to properly convert this thread to a polyasshat thread to more fully enrage the liberal left frequenting here...... (insert latest democratic blunder of your choice).

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by keipow View Post
    Not to sound dismissive, but I just can't see how thermal imaging works well when there is more than a couple feet of snow over the victim.
    That was my thought too. Snow is both a good insulator and pretty close to a black body in the IR (i.e. opaque). Neither would be conducive to finding a body under the snow with thermal imaging.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by stalefish3169 View Post
    Finding a buried beacon is the easy part. It's the shoveling that takes too long.
    quoted for truth.
    Although the V-conveyor shoveling method can be fairly quick. Of course that assumes at least 3 people to form the V ( 2 for rotating in-line shovelers) There is also first aid and rescue transportation to consider.
    I guess the answer is to practice all these components as much as transceiver searching.
    "if it's called tourist season, why can't we just shoot them?"

  25. #25
    Hugh Conway Guest
    so you saw these cool papers and you can't link anyone to the actual research, just another mouthbreathing blogpost Gopher? I think you're an idiot.

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