alcedo – the flying avalanche transceiver

Manuel Grauwiler, Dominic Gschwend, David Leuzinger, Martin Wyss, Luc Oth

Alcedo is a lightweight mini-helicopter with four rotors. Combined with a state-of-the-art avalanche transceiver, alcedo searches autonomously for avalanche victims without the need for human involvement. The four rotors can be folded upwards to reduce its transportation volume, which enables Alcedo to fit, protected by a shockproof casing, into any backpack.

The operator enters the area to search using an integrated, intuitive user interface. The drone thus knows where to search for victims. An ultrasonic sensor measures the distance to the ground and maintains a constant flight height to avoid collisions with environmental obstacles and rescuers.
Alcedo uses a GPS module and a magnetic compass for orientation on the avalanche site. While flying over the avalanche, alcedo constantly looks for avalanche transceiver signals. After detecting one, it localises the transceiver, flies to the corresponding position, and drops a smoke beacon. Meanwhile, rescuers can prepare their rescue gear and wait in a safe area for a marker to be dropped before immediately rushing to the victim’s aid.

The prototype is built upon state-of-the-art electronic components mounted on a newly developed, extremely lightweight and foldable quadrotor. The concept of using drones for alpine rescue is entirely novel. A set of highly sophisticated localisation and navigation algorithms based on GPS have been developed to enable alcedo to localise a detected victim within less than 10 seconds.

The device was originally designed for freeriding and ski touring enthusiasts. The development of the off-piste market is facing a strongly increasing demand for high-end avalanche rescue systems. Alcedo primarily targets professional rescue parties (REGA, Air Zermatt, etc), but freeriders interested in high-end technology are not excluded.

This easy-to-use, high-tech product will help professional rescue parties save lives. The speed and precision of alcedo reduce the time required for the rescue process and maximise the chance of survival. Alcedo searches autonomously for avalanche victim and marks their position while rescuers wait in a secure nearby area. Using alcedo is much faster, safer, and far less exhausting for rescuers than conventional means of searching for avalanche victims.


alcedo – the flying avalanche transceiver
Luc Oth
Gubelstrasse 41
8050 Z├╝rich
phone: +41 76 233 99 60