Thai Cave Rescue: 3 Engineering Techniques That Helped Save the Boys

Ordinary tech can do extraordinary things.

A story that has gripped international attention for weeks came to an end Tuesday when the final four boys of a youth soccer team and their 25-year-old coach were freed from inside a flooded cave in Northern Thailand. The rescue culminated a perilous, three-day effort that managed to save all 13 people in the cavern.

The mission was led by the Thai Navy Seals who worked closely with a myriad of experts in engineering, communications, and diving. This team of specialists acted swiftly and decisively, making use of everyday technology to pull off an endeavor of monumental proportions.

Thai Cave Rescue: A Trio of Camera Drones and Sonar Robots

A 30-person team from the oil and natural gas company PTT Exploration and Production piloted three drones to scout out the cave. This trio of flying bots was retrofitted with thermographic and optical cameras that were used to create 3D maps of the cave. This saved precious time and kept people from having to manually map out the cave, which could have resulted in injuries or casualties.


This mapping effort was further assisted by robots that used sonar scanners to help divers find their way through dark waters. These are normally used to survey areas where the company could potentially drill for oil or gas.

“The benefit of the drone is that it simplifies the search,” PTT employee, Thana Slanvetpan told Wired. “They probably have 100 potential access channels into the cave. Instead of having the ground force climb up and check every location, you just need the drone.”

Thai Cave Rescue: Handheld Comms

Standard radio reception did not function in the subterranean cavern the soccer team was trapped in. This is where Israeli communications company, Maxtech Networks, came in. It provided 19 special handheld devices that established a crucial line of wireless communication.


The company specializes in creating unconventional communications methods that don’t require standard networks to function. This made it possible for the rescue team to stay in touch with the 12 boys and their coach as well as coordinate the effort to get them to safety.

Thai Cave Rescue: Special Transmitters

The Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organization made it easier for rescue divers to communicate by making use of four HeyPhones — a specialist cave radio system. This communication tech is capable of transmitting through hundreds of meters of rock.

The British diving crew didn’t dive themselves, but they provided valuable knowledge of underwater cave diving that the Thai rescue team made use of along with the HeyPhones.

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