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UMD-Led Team Selected for Competition Aimed at Mass Casualty Response

By Robert Herschbach

A multi-institutional team led by the University of Maryland has been selected for the DARPA Triage Challenge, in which participants compete to develop novel methods of detecting injuries, particularly in mass casualty incidents, so that medical personnel can respond more quickly, efficiently and precisely.

Dubbed RoboScout DTC, the UMD team will be part of the Systems Competition, one of three parts the competition sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a Defense Department agency that aims for advanced technology breakthroughs. The team will focus on primary triage, in which medical personnel seek to identify and treat those most urgently in need of care.

In mass casualty incidents, triage needs often outstrip resources and place enormous strains on medical personnel. DARPA hopes to ease this burden by equipping uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, with “stand-off sensors” capable of detecting subtle changes in heat or energy from a distance and feeding data about potential casualties—including vital signs and the presence or absence of hemorrhage, respiratory distress, trauma—to machines trained with perceptual algorithms.

One of only three university teams selected for the competition—which can extend to 3 years, with up to $750,000 in funding—Roboscout DTC is led by Derek Paley, the Willis H. Young Jr. professor of aerospace engineering education and director of the Maryland Robotics Center, a research hub housed in the Institute for Systems Research.

He will be supported by the drone ops team at the UMD UAS Research and Operations Center and its chief pilot, Darren Robey and Distinguished University Professor Dinesh Manocha in computer science and electrical and computer engineering, who will train perception algorithms to integrate data from multiple stand-off sensor streams to generate assessment of injuries in real time.

Other key personnel include Bruce Lynch, director of the Center for the Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Sarah Murthi, an assistant professor there and surgeon at its R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. Both will contribute their expertise on medical sensing and triage procedures.

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