Nepal Earthquake: DHS & NASA tech succeeds in recovering four people from debris

Finder or Finding People for Disaster and Emergency Response, a heartbeat detector by NASA, was recently used for managing the aftermath of the high-intensity earthquake in Nepal. The disaster management team decided to use this device to facilitate the process of recovering people buried under the debris. Reports are suggesting that Finder has already managed to save lives of four individuals stuck in the debris.

For those who don’t know: Finder was built due to a collaboration between the Technology Directorate of US Department of Homeland Security and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The device is as big as a suitcase and weighs around 20 lb.

Finder uses microwave radar for detecting the heartbeat and breathing of people stuck in debris; the microwave radar provides the device with the power to sense people’s breathing and heartbeat from around 100 ft in open air, 10 ft in debris and 20 ft in concrete. That’s not all; Finder also possesses the ability to detect human life within a range of 5 ft. Last, but not least, this heartbeat detector by NASA is capable of differentiating between heartbeat of humans and animals.


Following the earthquake of April 25, two Finders were put to work in Nepal’s Chautara area, a place located in the eastern part of the country’s capital city Kathmandu. The NASA device succeeded in recovering a couple of individuals from the debris of a textile-factory. Then, two more people were recovered from the rubble of another building.

James Flux, NASA’s task manager for Finder, said that he is extremely happy to see that the equipment has completed the job it was appointed for successfully. Here, it must be mentioned that this was the first time the Finder was used during an actual disaster.

Flux explained the method of operation of the device in brief. He said that the Finder detects people stuck in debris by following the reflections that come back. According to Flux, reflections of debris never move, whereas the ones belonging to live humans stuck inside the rubble always do. Finder operates based on this particular mechanism.

Reginald Brothers of the US Department of Homeland Security said that although disasters like the Nepal earthquake are always uncalled for, new disaster management technologies can be tested for efficacy only during such situations.