Since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, 2015, search and rescue teams have been trying to locate missing people. Recently, four men were discovered under 10 feet of debris thanks to FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), a new device developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). FINDER uses microwave-radar technology to detect heartbeats and was originally invented to identify the existence of life on other planets.
On April 29, two prototypes of FINDER were brought to Nepal in order to help find the 403 people believed to be missing. Using the portable device, rescue workers were able to detect two sets of heartbeats underneath two different collapsed buildings. They were then able to find and rescue the four men.
Since FINDER’s development, a tool has been added in order to not only detect and confirm the existence of a heartbeat, but to also provide rescue workers with the individual’s approximate location. The radar technology can sense heartbeats from under as much as 30 feet of rubble, behind 20 feet of concrete, and from a distance of about 100 feet.
According to Dr. David Miller, NASA’s chief technologist, "NASA technology plays many roles: driving exploration, protecting the lives of our astronauts and improving—even saving—the lives of people on Earth ... FINDER exemplifies how technology designed for space exploration has profound impacts to life on Earth."