For the first time ever, a lifesaving drone has been used to rescue two swimmers. Lifeguards in Australia were training to use the drone when the swimmers, two teenaged boys, ran into trouble nearly half a mile out to sea off Lennox Head, New South Wales.
The lifesaving drones, which fly out to victims and drop inflatable life preservers, are part of a fleet that the NSW state government bought for A$340,000 that include shark spotters, as well.
“Never before has a drone fitted with a flotation device been used to rescue swimmers like this,” John Barilaro, the state’s deputy premier, told the BBC.
The rescue occurred after lifeguards were alerted to the swimmers’ situation by a member of the public. Within minutes, they launched the drone and sent it out to the pair, where it performed perfectly. “The Little Ripper UAV certainly proved itself today, it is an amazingly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment and a delight to fly,” Lifeguard supervisor Jai Sheridan, who was piloting the drone for the rescue, told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. “I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes. On a normal day that would have taken our lifeguards a few minutes longer to reach the members of the public.”
Both the swimmers were able to grab onto the floatation device and paddle to shore. Lifeguards reported that they were fatigued, but otherwise unharmed. “Never before has a drone, fitted with a flotation device been used to rescue swimmers like this. 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,” said Ben Franklin, Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW. “This was an extraordinary rescue with the very best possible outcome.”