Skip to main content
< Back to news
Researchers Santiago Marco and Javier Burgués (Photo: IBEC).

A nanodrone able to detect toxic gases in emergencies

Detecting dangerous gases in collapsed buildings due earthquakes or explosions and identifying the presence of victims in places which are hard to access are some action scenarios of SNAV (Smelling Nano Aerial Vehicle), a nanodrone designed and created by the researchers Santiago Marco and Javier Burgués, from the Faculty of Physics of the University of Barcelona and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), based in the Barcelona Science Park.


The SNAV nanodrone, described for the first time in an article in the journal Sensors (doi: 10.3390/s19030478), weighs thirty five grams and is designed to fly and identify gases in different scenarios to which other technological gadgets cannot access. It has nanometric MOX gas sensors that can respond to gases such as carbon monoxide (CO) or methane (CH4) and other organic volatile compounds (ethanol, acetone, benzene, etc.), with a detection threshold of sensors of the order of a part per million in volume (ppmv), according to the gas and the used sensor.

Different from other larger gadgets, SNAV is able to work in interior spaces –it can cross holes and cracks- and can work in large areas –about 160 square meters- where the chemical emission source is hidden in areas which are hard to access (false ceilings, air duct systems, etc.).

This new device would be especially useful in “rescue operations in collapsed buildings due earthquakes and explosions –SNAV can detect toxic gases and even the compounds unconscious victims inhale- and in a search for drugs or explosives in places which are hard to enter”, explains Santiago Marco, principal researcher at IBEC and member of the Department of Electronic and Biomedical Engineering of the UB, who led the new research study. In these situations after an earthquake or explosion, rescue teams usually have trained dogs to find the victims.

Therefore, the possibility of using autonomous robots in these tasks is an option to bear in mind in the sort and long term. “Terrestrial robots used to focus the searching on the field of chemical signalling-based localization. Today, the option of using nanodrones broadens the ability and quickness of the robots to move within an interior space and overcome obstacles such as stairs”, says Marco, head of the Research Group Senyal Intel·ligent per Sistemes sensors en BioEnginyeria (intelligent signalling for sensor systems in bioengineering) UB-IBEC.

► For further information: IBEC website [+]