Using drones to locate people with dementia
Dalia Hanna, Computer Science PhD student
Many years ago in her homeland of Cairo, Egypt, Dalia Hanna’s aunt Lucy began wandering from the long-term care facility where she was admitted for dementia in her late-60s. One day, however, Lucy left and never came back.
It is estimated that six out of 10 Alzheimer’s patients will go wandering; one in five will suffer injury if they are not found within 24 hours. Hanna, a Computer Science PhD student, aims to improve search-and-rescue efforts using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones. Whereas traditional searches conducted by police officers and volunteers require substantial time and resources, automation and a bird’s eye view make UAVs far more efficient.
As part of Ryerson’s Network-Centric Applied Research Team (N-CART), led by Dr. Alex Ferworn, Hanna is developing an algorithm that will predict a wanderer’s path, using data provided by startup Ubimodo. Last summer, she also partnered with the Ontario Provincial Police to conduct drone search tests in Mississauga and Brampton. Hanna’s research is funded through Dr. Ferworn’s association with a multi-university NSERC (Collaborative Research and Training Experience Program (CREATE) grant for Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid Response Simulation (ADERSIM). Ultimately, she hopes her research will prevent families from losing loved ones like Aunt Lucy.
In addition to being a PhD student, Hanna is also program director, community services at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education. With a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a master of science in instructional design and technology, and Project Management Professional certification, Hanna truly espouses The Chang School mantra of lifelong learning.
“The nature of working in higher ed is that you continue learning,” said Hanna. “So I felt a PhD was a natural progression for me.”
And while graduate education is important, Hanna’s family remains her top priority. In particular, she aims to be a role model for her nine-year-old daughter, not only as a seeker of knowledge but also as a woman in science.
“Nothing can stop her,” said Hanna. “I tell her that all doors are open to her – she just has to choose.”
Photo credit: Mark Blinch