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Nepal earthquake: Nasa uses microwave technology to detect heartbeats of people stuck under rubble

Published 08/05/2015

Nepalese people pay tributes to the victims of the April 25 earthquake (AP)
Nepalese people pay tributes to the victims of the April 25 earthquake (AP)

Heartbeat-detecting technology developed by Nasa has been used to find four men trapped under huge piles of debris in Nepal.

The men were found using a device called FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), which uses microwave-radar technology to detect heartbeats. The device was developed by Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as well as the Department for Homeland Security (DHS).

It works by sending a microwave signal that can reach through the rubble and detect the breathing of a human. People don’t need to be conscious to be picked up by it.

FINDER is based on technology originally developed to find life on other planets, and uses similar devices to locate spacecraft and explore new worlds. But Nasa also hopes that it can be used for humans in space, monitoring astronauts’ vital signs without needing wires.

The device is still in prototype, but two of them were sent to Nepal after the earthquake there on April 25. They were used to support search and rescue teams, and test how useful they will be in practical situations.

"NASA technology plays many roles: driving exploration, protecting the lives of our astronauts and improving — even saving — the lives of people on Earth," said David Miller, NASA's chief technologist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "FINDER exemplifies how technology designed for space exploration has profound impacts to life on Earth."

The four men had been trapped in the village of Chautara, in Nepal. Representatives from the project worked with rescue workers from around the world to find heartbeats — which they did, discovering the men under two collapsed structures.

The technology has previously been demonstrated to work to find people trapped under 30 feet of rubble, behind 20 feet of solid concrete, or over 100 metres of open space. It can tell researchers that a heartbeat has been detected as well as providing an approximate location of where they are.

"The true test of any technology is how well it works in a real-life operational setting," said DHS undersecretary for science and technology Reginald Brothers. "Of course, no one wants disasters to occur, but tools like this are designed to help when our worst nightmares do happen.”

Source: Independent

Volunteers and emergency workers search for bodies buried under the debris of one of the temples at Basantapur Durbar Square on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images)
Volunteers and emergency workers search for bodies buried under the debris of one of the temples at Basantapur Durbar Square on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 26, 2015 shows Nepalese students and Chinese students gathering to pray for Nepal in Nanhua University in Hengyang, central China's Hunan province. International rescue teams and relief supplies began arriving in Nepal's devastated capital on April 27 to help terrified and homeless survivors of a quake that has killed more than 3,200 people in the impoverished nation. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks out of a damaged house in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Undated handout photo issued by International Federation of Red Cross of rescue work in Kathmandu, Nepal following an earthquake which left more than 3,500 dead and thousands of others injured. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday April 27, 2015. See PA story QUAKE Nepal. Photo credit should read: Carl Whetham/IFRC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Israeli women cuddle a newborn baby of a homosexual couple who was born in Nepal to a surrogate mother after they were repatriated to Israel from quake-hit Nepal, a Tel Aviv airport, on April 27, 2015. Israel began repatriating its nationals from Nepal, including two groups of babies born to surrogate mothers in Kathmandu whose fathers are homosexual Israelis, officials said. Nepal has become a destination for people seeking to have children through surrogate mothers, though the practice is controversial, with critics saying it exploits the poverty of women. AFP PHOTO / TOMER NEUBERG == ISRAEL OUT ==Tomer Neuberg/AFP/Getty Images
An Israeli homosexual man carries his baby inside a bus at a Tel Aviv airport after they were repatriated from quake-hit Nepal, on April 27, 2015. Israel began repatriating its nationals from quake-hit Nepal, including two groups of babies born to surrogate mothers in Kathmandu whose fathers are homosexual Israelis, officials said. Nepal has become a destination for people seeking to have children through surrogate mothers, though the practice is controversial, with critics saying it exploits the poverty of women. AFP PHOTO / TOMER NEUBERG == ISRAEL OUT ==Tomer Neuberg/AFP/Getty Images
A wall at the Kathmandu airport that collapsed during Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Chaos has reigned at Kathmandu's small airport since the earthquake, with the onslaught of relief flights causing major backups on the tarmac. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Nepalese carry the body of their relative killed in the recent earthquake for cremation at the Pashupatinath temple, on the banks of Bagmati river, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving some tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
A Nepalese man waits for the cremation of his relative killed in the recent earthquake, at the Pashupatinath temple, on the banks of Bagmati river, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving some tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday April 27 2015, as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official death toll soared past 4-thousand, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday April 27 2015, as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official death toll soared past 4-thousand, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday April 27 2015, as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official death toll soared past 4-thousand, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
Nepalese victims of Saturdays earthquake lie inside an Indian air force helicopter as they are evacuated from Trishuli Bazar to Kathmandu airport in Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. The death toll from Nepal's earthquake is expected to rise depended largely on the condition of vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
A Nepalese family collects belongings from their home destroyed in Saturday's earthquake, in Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Nepalese soldiers carry a wounded woman to a waiting Indian air force helicopter as they evacuate victims of Saturdays earthquake from Trishuli Bazar to Kathmandu airport in Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. The death toll from Nepal's earthquake is expected to rise depended largely on the condition of vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
A hindu priest lights the funeral pyre of a victim of Saturday's earthquake, at the Pashupatinath temple, on the banks of Bagmati river, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving some tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
Local residents walk past vehicles held up in a traffic jam on the mountain highway from Kathmandu near the epicenter of Saturday's massive earthquake in the Gorkha District, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Shelter, fuel, food, medicine, power, news, workers Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday April 27 2015, as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official death toll soared past 4-thousand, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
Suresh, 16, right, watches as a priest prepares the funeral pyre for his younger brother Umesh, 13, killed in Saturday's earthquake, at the Pashupatinath temple, on the banks of the Bagmati river, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving some tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday April 27 2015, as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official death toll soared past 4-thousand, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
A Nepalese man has food inside a tent as people stay on open ground from fears of earthquake tremors in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
An aerial view of tents setup by residents in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Shelter, fuel, food, medicine, power, news, workers Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
A man sits with a child on his lap as victims of Saturdays earthquake, wait for ambulances after being evacuated at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. The death toll from Nepal's earthquake is expected to rise depended largely on the condition of vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
An aerial view of tents setup by residents in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Shelter, fuel, food, medicine, power, news, workers Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photo provided by World Vision, a house stands destroyed by Saturdays earthquake at Paslang village in Gorkha municipality, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Reports received so far by the government and aid groups suggest that many communities perched on mountainsides are devastated or struggling to cope. Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official for the Gorkha district, near the epicenter of Saturday's quake, said he was in desperate need of help. (Bishwo Ghimire/World Vision via AP)
In this handout picture released on April 27, 2015 an RAF C-17 is loaded with aid at RAF Brize Norton, north west of London to be flown to Nepal. The flight will include more than 1,100 shelter kits and over 1,700 solar lanterns, along with a team of Gurkha engineers to assist relief efforts after a devastating earthquake killed more than 3,800 people. AFP PHOTO / NEIL BRYDEN / MOD / CROWN COPYRIGHT 2015 RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / NEIL BRYDEN / MOD / CROWN COPYRIGHT 2015 " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO ARCHIVE - TO BE USED WITHIN 2 DAYS FROM APRIL 27, 2014 (48 HOURS), EXCEPT FOR MAGAZINES WHICH CAN PRINT THE PICTURE WHEN FIRST REPORTING ON THE EVENTNEIL BRYDEN/AFP/Getty Images
People search amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People search amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People search amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Residents look at collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People walk through the ruins of Bhaktapur's Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks next to collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People carry their belongings amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Residents look on from the top of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Nepalese rescue personnel and volunteers observe damaged buildings in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue personnel search for survivors amidst the rubble in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue personnel search for survivors amidst the rubble in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue personnel search for survivors amidst the rubble in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, are seen on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People walk through a neighbourhood with collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People walk through a neighbourhood with collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Nepalese people stand in line to get food from a community kitchen in Kathmandu on April 27, 2015. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO/PRAKASH SINGHPRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images
This handout photo released on April 27, 2015 by the Indian Ministry of Defence shows evacuated people from earthquake-hit Nepal deboarding an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft at Air Force Station Palam in New Delhi on April 26. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / MOD ----EDITORS NOTE---- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT - "AFP PHOTO / MOD " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS------MOD/AFP/Getty Images
Indian schoolgirls light candles for the victims of an earthquake in Nepal at a school in Amritsar on April 27, 2015. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANUNARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistani residents pray during a candle light vigil for the victims of Nepal earthquake in Multan on April 27, 2015. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. With fears rising of food and water shortages, people were also rushing to stores and petrol stations to stock up on supplies in the capital, ripped apart by Saturday's 7.8-magnitude quake. AFP PHOTO/ SS MIRZASS MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images
KATHMANDU, NEPAL - APRIL 27: Rescue team members search for bodies in the debris of a collapsed temple at Basantapur Durbar Square on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving over 3000 dead and many more trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

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