Citizen science experiment

Aircraft in a field
Photo: Courtesy of WRAL TV

Welcome to the search and rescue citizen science research project

The Search and Rescue Citizen Science project is designed to aid in assessing the use of new sensor technologies in airborne Search and Rescue operations. The citizen science research study is part of a larger Search and Rescue project supported by many initiatives/organizations.

In the current project, we are investigating the ability of individuals to detect the presence of a downed aircraft as seen through the use of an infrared sensor, using actual sensor images captured during nighttime flights over a test range. As a participant in this study, you will be asked to look at a number of these images and indicate whether you can detect the shape of an aircraft on the terrain. Some trials will contain an aircraft shape (only one per image), while others will not. Using two designated keys on your keyboard, you will indicate if you detect an aircraft in the image or not.

Specific instructions and examples of the task will be presented on the following pages. Participation in this study will take approximately 20-30 minutes of your time. If you agree to participate, we ask that you try to complete this experiment in a single sitting. At the end of the session, you will receive feedback about this experiment.

Eligibility requirements

To take part in this study:

You will need the following equipment:
- Computer monitor with a minimum resolution of 640 by 480 (mobile devices are non-compatible)
- Keyboard
- Mouse


You must be able to*:
- See the computer monitor clearly
- Manually strike the designated keys on your keyboard to indicate your responses

*Note about accessibility and software

  • The success of this experiment and the quality of data collected depends on participants' ability to a) visually detect shapes in images, and b) manually strike two designated keyboard keys. Due to the nature of the study, the web application used is not compatible with screen readers for visually impaired individuals and does not meet federal government accessibility standards for visually impaired persons or those who may have difficulty performing manual keystrokes on a computer keyboard.
  • If you are using Internet Explorer, ensure you use version 9 or later.

We thank you in advance for considering taking part in this study because your participation will help us improve future search and rescue operations.

Our collaborators

The Search and Rescue Citizen Science research initiative is part of a larger project funded by the Government of Canada, with support coming primarily from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat (New Initiatives Fund), with additional support from the National Research Council (Working and Travelling on Aircraft Program). Project collaborators have included Defence Research and Development Canada – Valcartier, Defence Research and Development Canada – Suffield, the Department of National Defence, Directorate of Aerospace Engineering Project Management, and the Canadian Civil Air Search and Rescue Association.

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