Every year there are numerous cases of individuals becoming lost in remote wilderness environments. Principles of search theory have become a foundation for developing more efficient and successful search and rescue methods. Measurements can be taken that describe how easily a search object is to detect. These estimates allow the calculation of the probability of detection—the probability that an object would have been detected if in the area. This value only provides information about the search area as a whole; it does not provide details about which portions were searched more thoroughly than others. Ground searchers often carry portable GPS devices and their resulting GPS track logs have recently been used to fill in part of this knowledge gap. We created a system that provides a detection likelihood map that estimates the probability that each point in a search area was seen well enough to detect the search object if it was there. This map will be used to aid ground searchers as they search an assigned area, providing real time feedback of what has been "seen." The maps will also assist incident commanders as they assess previous searches and plan future ones by providing more detail than is available by viewing GPS track logs.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Computer Science



Date Submitted


Document Type





Search and rescue, POD, probability of detection, effective sweep width, GPS track logs