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Design and Evaluation of a Small Size Avalanche Beacon

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Avalanche beacon.jpg

Short Description

Avalanches and rockfall have become as serious and frequent hazard in the alpine region, especially due to larger variations in precipitation and temperatures. Nowadays, researches, led by experts at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos, Switzerland, have a profound understanding of how avalanches form. However, it’s not possible yet to predict precisely why, when, and where an avalanche will be triggered. A better understanding of the complex physical processes inside avalanches is required to be able to assess their scale and destructiveness. For that reason, large-scale experiments, with state-of-the-art sensor technology, are required to be able the gather data from insight an avalanche. The data collected helps to develop and improve simulation programs which are used by engineers worldwide to assess hazards and design protection measures. (

In this project, we aim to develop a non-life critical avalanche beacon which will allow collecting sensor notes after large-scale experiments. The relaxed constraints in terms of no need of a search mode as well as the non-critical application should allow to reduce the system complexity significant and facilitates, therefore, a higher integration and a significantly longer battery life.

Depending on the applicant's profile, his tasks may involve some of the following:

  • Comprehensive analyzes of technologies used in state-of-the-art avalanche transceivers
  • A case study on the applicability of other localization/communication methods (GPS, LORA, BLE)
  • Development/testing/characterization of a discrete small size low power RF transmitter in an embedded system: prototype development, verification of the prototype's characteristics w.r. design specification (simulations), measuring power-consumption, and assessing localization performance in lab. conditions
  • Embedded programming, signal processing, wireless communication
  • adaption of the circuit to a specific sensor node, field testing, data acquisition
  • PCB design to build a working prototype which includes all the subsystems

(image source: SLF)

Suggested references:

  • [1] ETSI EN 300 718-1 V1.2.1 (2001-05)
  • [2] D. Macii, G. Filippetto and M. Donelli, "Measurement of equivalent circuit parameters of avalanche beacons antennas for rapid prototyping," 2017 IEEE International Workshop on Measurement and Networking (M&N), Naples, 2017, pp. 1-6.
  • [3] Schleppe, J.B., Lachapelle, G., "GPS Tracking Performance Under Avalanche Deposited Snow," Proceedings of the 19th International Technical Meeting of the Satellite Division of The Institute of Navigation (ION GNSS 2006), Fort Worth, TX, September 2006, pp. 3105-3116.
  • [4] A. Caviezel et al., "Design and Evaluation of a Low-Power Sensor Device for Induced Rockfall Experiments," in IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, vol. 67, no. 4, pp. 767-779, April 2018.

Status: Completed

  • Looking for Group and Semester Project Students
Supervisors: Philipp Mayer, Michele Magno


(not all need to be met by the single candidate)

  • Experience using the laboratory instrumentation - signal generators, oscilloscopes, DAQ cards, Matlab etc.
  • analog electronics and signal conditioning with operational amplifiers: amplifiers, filters, integrators etc.
  • knowledge of microcontroller programming and PC programming (C/C++)
  • asic knowledge or interests in signal processing, wireless communication for localization and machine learning is a plus
  • plus is knowledge on printed circuit board (PCB) using Altium.


35% Theory
30% Implementation
35% Testing

IIS Professor

Luca Benini

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Detailed Task Description


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