Australia’s specialized search and rescue drone maker, the Ripper Group, has announced its merger with Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ). The agreement accompanies SLSQ taking an equity stake in the producers of the Little Ripper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) through an undisclosed investment sum.
More effective UAP rescue development
The move marks the fusion of the Ripper Group with one of its largest clients. Management of the rebranded Ripper Corp. will be divided between directors from both partners. The union seeks to enhance development and operational synergies previously created through their overlapping and mutually nourishing pursuits.
Through it, the Ripper Group’s groundbreaking work in search and rescue drone deployment, research, and training will be integrated into SLSQ’s use of advanced UAV and AI tech applications in its surf lifesaving operations.
“It made sense that rather than continue to contract with The Ripper Group as a provider, that we invest in the business,” says SLSQ director Grant Dearlove, who will co-chair Ripper Corp.’s board. “Drones are a phenomenal way of achieving our mission to save lives…(The Ripper Group is) the right fit culturally to help us drive changes that will ultimately modernize and transform the organization.”
Anti-drowning, shark, crock drone
Less than two years after the first Little Rippers took to the air in 2016, the drone made its first major splash by air-dropping an inflatable pod that saved the lives of two teenage body surfers who’d been swamped by heavy waves.
The drone has become central to SLSQ’s lifeguarding operation since then. Founded in 1930, SLSQ now has 57 established surf lifesaving clubs responsible for keeping watch over 4,970 miles of coastline. The Little Ripper’s repeated successes in SLSQ missions led its capacities and deployment being broadened in other ways.
SLSQ, for example, also uses the Little Ripper’s AI-enhanced video for surveillance of Queensland beaches prone to shark visitation. Elsewhere, the drone’s expanding recognition of other waterborne threats led to its use keeping watch for crocodiles around susceptible shorelines – an effort pairing with Amazon Web Services.
Little Rippers were also flown to assess damage to areas ravaged by Australia’s enormous 2020 wild fires. As part of those flights, the drones’ infrared cameras identified animals trapped in areas the flames had not reached, or in other conditions requiring human assistance.
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