An increasing number of lifeguard organizations around the world are turning to drone technology to help speed up rescue efforts for when swimmers get into difficulties.
Australia, Germany, and Iran are three such countries that have rescue drones ready to take to the skies in an emergency. And it’s not just their speed in carrying flotation devices to struggling swimmers that makes them so useful. Their onboard cameras also enable the drone pilot to survey the scene and relay important information to lifeguards who are on their way to help.
The latest demonstration of just how effective drones can be for ocean rescues came this week in the sea off Sagunto, about 15 miles north of Valencia, Spain.
When a lifeguard spotted bathers caught in an undertow about 70 meters from the shore, the Auxdron Lifeguard Drone was quickly deployed to help out, sUASnews reported.
Initially receiving guidance from a lifeguard in an observation tower, drone pilot Diego Torres flew the quadcopter toward the distressed swimmers.
“I had a general location but with the help of the lifeguard giving me instructions and the video feed from the drone, we were on top of them within the minute,” Torres told sUASnews.
A quick assessment via the livestream revealed that one woman in the group was having particular difficulties in the water, with the other swimmers trying to support her in the choppy surf. Torres responded by releasing one of the drone’s two life vests, lowering it on a tether to within reach of the swimmers. When it touches the water, the vest disconnects from the tether and automatically inflates before being used to help the woman.
A short while later, lifeguards arrive on a Jet Ski to take the woman back to shore. The drone, which was built by Spanish startup GeneralDrones, stays hovering in the air, relaying information about the condition of the remaining swimmers back to lifeguards as the rescue effort continues.
Lifeguards in New South Wales, Australia, are also using drone technology to help in rescue efforts. Its specially designed quadcopter hit the headlines earlier this year when it played a central role in the rescue of two struggling swimmers. The drone reached the pair and dropped a flotation device in just 70 seconds — several minutes before a human lifeguard would have been able to get there.
In 2017, the New South Wales government announced it would invest more than $300,000 in drone-rescue technology as part of a trial for coastal areas in the Australian state.