Today two teenagers got in distress when they were swimming in rough seas off the shore of Lennox Head in New South Wales, Australia. The lifeguards on duty did not waste any time and deployed the Little Ripper rescue drone to fly out to the swimmers and drop a flotation device. The two boys were able to grab the device, hold on to it and swim safely back to shore where they were met by lifeguards and only appeared to show signs of fatigue.
According to Ben Franklin, parliamentary secretary for Northern New South Wales, the whole event took 70 seconds instead of the 6 minutes it normally takes a lifeguard to reach people in need.
First time a drone is being used in a rescue operation
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, deputy premier and minister for regional New South Wales John Barilaro said it was the first time drone technology had been used in a life-saving event.
Lifeguard supervisor Jai Sheridan, the 2017 NSW Lifeguard of the Year, was flying the rescue drone and was able to locate the swimmers within minutes of taking off.
“The Little Ripper UAV certainly proved itself today, it is an amazingly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment and a delight to fly,” Mr Sheridan said.
The drone recorded the whole event and in the video, you can see the flotation device being dropped over the swimmers as they were pounded by the waves.
The New South Wales government invested $430,000 Australian dollars ($340,000 USD) in drones to patrol the beaches for sharks. Some of these drones, such as the Little Ripper we reported on earlier, come equipped with special identification software that helps Lifeguards to quickly distinguish between swimmers, surfers, and sharks.
Also in other places around Australia have lifeguards turned to drones to patrol beaches for sharks, crocodiles and to find missing people.
“It’s quite incredible to see that the NSW Government’s investment in this technology has already resulted in two people having their lives saved,” Mr Barilaro said.
The founder of the company that manufacturers the Little Ripper rescue drones said he was inspired after having seen an unmanned helicopter looking for survivors in the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.
“Never before has a drone, fitted with a flotation device been used to rescue swimmers like this.”
Franklin had this to say about the incredible efforts of the lifeguards:
“It took only 70 seconds from when the Little Ripper drone was launched to when it dropped the pod into the ocean for the rescue, a task that would usually take a lifeguard up to six minutes to complete. This was an extraordinary rescue with the very best possible outcome.”