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RAWIS – rapid aid after accidents or disasters

Whether it be an earthquake, a flood, or a plane crash: in the event of an accident or disaster, every second counts. For rescue crews and search parties, however, looking for survivors at the location of the disaster can put their own lives at risk. With “RAWIS,” researchers at Fraunhofer FHR will develop a system intended to make difficult deployment situations after accidents and disasters more manageable.

RAWIS will help rescue teams to avoid putting themselves in danger. © MEV Verlag

Collapsed buildings after an earthquake: a typical deployment scenario for the planned RAWIS system. © Fraunhofer FHR / Uwe Bellhäuser

Often, rescue crews are faced with great challenges when they attempt to administer first aid in impassable terrain. To ensure that in the future, helpers will no longer have to put themselves at risk, the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR has launched the RAWIS project (“Radar Warning and Information System for Civil Protection Use”).

The vision: safe on-site aid


The aim of the project is to develop a new type of monitoring system to protect rescue crews in disaster-stricken areas. During rescue deployment in complex situations – after a major earthquake, for example – rescue crews are exposed to significant dangers due to unstable rubble and dangerous ruins. “The removal of rubble and debris in the search for people buried underneath leads to a constantly changing danger,” explains project coordinator Dr. Jens Klare. Currently, a laser system is used to survey the position of reflective markers that are fixed to the rubble in order to predict possible shifts. “Fixing the reflectors in place beforehand costs valuable time during which we could be looking for survivors, and it is also extremely dangerous for the rescue crews. The setup and operation of the system are also exceedingly complex, meaning that only a small number of specially trained personnel can set up and operate the system during a rescue mission,” explains Dr. Klare.


The solution: radar instead of laser


The new device makes this much simpler. The radar unit is being designed and built together with THW, the University of Siegen, Ruhr University Bochum, and the company indurad. It monitors the deployment location continuously and seamlessly, regardless of rain, fog, dust, or smoke, and obviates the need for special markers. Furthermore, the scientists intend to design the unit so that it will be ready to go in a few minutes and will be easy to operate. The Federal City of Bonn and the companies Elettronica and unival are associated partners of the consortium.


Quick and seamless monitoring


The overall radar system comprises a main radar system that uses the MIMO principle: intelligent signal processing means that the hardware requirements can be significantly reduced and costs for the overall system can be saved. “The radar monitors the deployment location in full and seamlessly from a central point. Additional support radars monitor dangerous areas that cannot be seen, such as the rears of buildings, on a point-by-point basis,” explains Dr. Klare. The overall system is complemented with active RFIDs that are attached to the clothing of rescue personnel and monitor the personnel’s spatial position, which allows a targeted alarm to be raised if need be. If a warning is issued for an area that is liable to collapse, rescue work can continue elsewhere. This increases the safety and the efficiency of rescue operations. Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the RAWIS project to the tune of approximately € 3.6 million (for the entire project) as part of the “Civil Security – protection and rescue in complex deployment situations ” topic.



Dr. Jens Klare

Phone +49 228 9435-311



Jens Fiege

Phone +49 228 9435-323



Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR

Fraunhoferstrasse 20

53343 Wachtberg