Industrial - Bachelors

K9 Search and Rescue Harness

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The K9 Search and Rescue Harness, a specialized wearable, optimizes handler-K9 communication, reducing search times and enhancing efficiency during a search mission. Equipped with GPS tracking, live video, two-way audio, break-release mechanism, and an LED health display, it streamlines coordination, ensuring faster and more effective search operations in rescue missions.

What is K9 Search and rescue?

The use of search and rescue dogs (SAR) originated in the 1800s when they were known as Ambulance and Red Cross dogs. These dogs were trained to locate wounded individuals and deliver medical supplies during World War I . Today, SAR teams worldwide employ specially trained canines and their handlers for various purposes, including human detection, evidence seeking, and cadaver searches in emergency and search operations. These SAR teams are typically composed of volunteers who are dedicated to saving lives and providing assistance in critical situations. SAR dogs are classified by the type of terrain they work in and the specific search methods they are trained to execute. These include:


Research emphasizes the significance of Air-Scent Wilderness K9s, notably in Australian Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. This category poses challenges as these K9s often work independently over vast distances from their handlers. Such autonomy becomes a focal point in SAR, presenting notable complexities and unique problem-solving demands in this field.
During the research phase, SAR handlers both nationally and internationally, specializing in air-scent wilderness K9s, were interviewed and surveyed. Through discussions of the SAR process and survey results, key pain points were identified as significant inefficiencies and inaccuracies within the system, resulting in increased search times for SAR teams. Interviews with general dog owners were also conducted to better understand general owner-K9 communication, identifying main points of communication struggle. An overall theme from all research identified the increasing difficulty in controlling K9s over long distances and in distracting environments.


In canine search and rescue missions, time emerges as the most critical element. Canine SAR teams are continuously working to increase efficiency and accuracy in their search and rescue missions to decrease search times. SAR dogs often navigate terrains that pose significant challenges for human searchers, covering ground at speeds far surpassing human capability. Currently, K9 units operate with relatively limited technological support, placing a heavy reliance on effective canine handler communication. Notably, as these canines frequently operate in terrains where they may be positioned over 500 meters away from their handlers, the significance of communication is accentuated in the quest to elevate mission efficiency. However, an exploration through both primary and secondary research reveals that communication stands out as the most problematic aspect of SAR missions.

Communication of safety and health

Currently, there is poor communication regarding injuries or health risks to the canine. Handlers are not being informed of these incidents in a timely manner and often lack understanding of the occurrence. Addressing these issues late or not addressing them at all can have severe health implications for the canine and, in some cases, be fatal. The occurrence of these incidents is also found to negatively impact canine performance due to the deterioration of their health and abilities. Delayed detection further exacerbates negative health implications, reducing the dogs’ ability to perform and lowering mission efficiency.

Communication of canine performance

Currently, canine performance can be hindered by environmental distractions, causing the canine to either lose scent completely or miss search areas. While missing search areas is not a common occurrence, it can happen during searches. Communication to the handler regarding the canine’s current performance during the search is minimal. In instances where these issues occur, the accuracy of the search can be compromised, and search times can be prolonged as the dog is required to re-search these areas.

Communication of command

Currently, during SAR missions, command control over long-ranging distances and in dense or loud environments is limited. With a reduced ability to communicate commands to canines, search times increase as the handler needs to either relocate or wait for the canine to relocate to the handler.

Communication of victim location

Currently, due to the low audibility of the canine’s alert, more time is required to identify that the canine has made a find, as the handler may take time to come within audible range. This results in inefficiency in the search, leading to increased search times even after the victim has been located.

Communication with victim

Currently, there is inadequate communication between the SAR team and the victim at the initial point of contact when the canine makes contact with the victim. At this stage, there is also insufficient communication of the victim’s situation and health to the human SAR team

Currently, there is very limited equipment available to address these issues as equipment of canine can cause safety issues of getting stuck and trapped. Although there are GPS trackers and camera harnesses available, they can only be used in certain terrain with risk of getting stuck is low.


The K9 SAR harness prioritizes improving handler-K9 communication and mission efficiency. It integrates advanced features like two-way audio, live video streaming, and a GPS tracker, enhancing situational awareness and search accuracy. Additionally, it includes an LED health indicator, ensuring the K9’s well-being. Its sleek design prevents entanglement, and a break-release buckle ensures the dog’s safety. Utilizing technology like an IP mesh network, the harness aims to optimize communication in challenging terrains, reducing search times and enhancing efficiency. The harness boasts a sleek design to prevent entanglement in dense wilderness areas. In case it gets caught, it features a break-release buckle mechanism that detaches with a pull from the K9, ensuring the dog’s safety.


The GPS in SAR K9 harnesses elevates the dogs’ locational awareness, enabling precise tracking. This technology empowers handlers to monitor the dog’s search area, evaluating its coverage and performance. With real-time data, it optimizes search strategies and facilitates efficient tracking of the dog’s movements for better search outcomes.


The LED display on the harness turns red upon detecting abnormal heart rate or high body temperature in K9s, common signs of health issues like dehydration, poisoning, or overheating during search operations. This feature provides crucial visibility to often hidden health concerns, enhancing the dog’s safety.


The live camera stream provides handlers a visual of the victim’s state and potential toxic contaminants the K9 encountered, aiding identification. Additionally, it offers insight into the dog’s body language during searches, enhancing understanding and enabling swift response to any encountered hazards or victim conditions.


The two-way audio feature significantly enhances the audibility of the K9’s bark alerts, allowing for clearer communication between the handler and the dog. It also facilitates handler recall in the event of danger within the search terrain. Moreover, it enables effective communication between the handler and any potential victims during search and rescue operations.


The break-release mechanism significantly enhances K9 safety on the track by allowing the harness to detach if stuck, ensuring the dog’s freedom. This innovative feature provides a solution to avoid equipment on dogs, minimizing the likelihood of entanglement and enhancing overall safety during search and rescue missions.


The utilization of IP mesh technology within SAR K9 harnesses revolutionizes search and rescue missions. This technology establishes a self-sustained network, enabling direct communication between devices. Ideal for remote, off-grid locations where traditional connectivity is absent, it supports radio, GPS, and video communication. Operating efficiently within a 5km range, this IP mesh can navigate dense forest environments with minimal signal degradation, extending its reach to aid SAR K9 teams, ensuring improved communication and efficiency in challenging terrains.


The harness design incorporates injection-molded polyethylene for its durable, lightweight nature—ideal for outdoor use. Detachable top electronic components, affixed with removable straps and Velcro, ensure easy cleaning of fabric padding. Wiring for sensors is fed through straps and padding into the component. Adjustable straps and waterproof nylon padding provide comfort in wet conditions, enabling K9s to work without discomfort.

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Aantra Shinde

Aantra Shinde, a third-year industrial design student at QUT, is a problem-solving enthusiast with a knack for innovative solutions. Passionate and creative, she's dedicated to making a meaningful impact through design and looks forward to contributing her unique perspective in the field.