FINDER, Technology from a Successful Government Partnership

According to John Price, deputy director of the Office for Interoperability and Compatibility in the First Responders Group at DHS' Science and Technology Directorate, “FINDER is an example of a Federal government partnership that works.”

"They [FEMA] actually referred to it as the 'Holy Grail of Search and Rescue. They'd be able to walk down any given street where a disaster has taken place and go ahead and look at any given building or pile of rubble and say, 'Yeah, there's somebody alive in there.' Or, 'There's nobody alive in there.' That way, they can go ahead and better use their limited rescue technologies and rescue first responders and save the live people and get them out as rapidly as possible."


FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response) grew from a successful partnership between NASA’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and DHS (Department of Homeland Security).

Partnered Development

NASA’s JPL develops technology and looks for appropriate applications. Partnerships with other agencies often refine the applications for practical use in the government or private sector. For FINDER technology, partnership with DHS’s FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) allowed First Responders to test prototypes for search and rescue application.

FINDER Application

Originally, the JPL’s technology was developed to measure small changes in ocean level and to measure orbital distances.

"These same sorts of measuring distances — very precisely from a long way away — is very similar to what we're doing here with FINDER, where we're penetrating the rubble at maybe 20, 30 meters deep, looking for 1 millimeter of movement from a heartbeat," said Jim Lux, engineering manager at JPL. "That's how we moved these algorithms from the space area down to saving lives here on Earth."

Since responders needed technology to help find people trapped within collapsed buildings or debris, partnership with FEMA helped the JPL develop additional applications.

How FINDER Works

The technology applied for FINDER uses low-powered microwaves to detect very small movements within rubble. These small movements are then analyzed and filtered for potential human movement such as breathing or a heartbeat.

Coming Soon

With practical testing and feedback from emergency responders on the 2012 prototype, the JPL has refined the latest prototype for additional testing and application. Plans could see FINDER transitioned into search and rescue by the end of the year.