Most people think of drones as either a fun toy or a way for Amazon to get your package to you. But earlier this week, a drone was responsible for saving the lives of two Australian teens from drowning.
The two teens, ages 15 and 17, were more than 2,000 feet offshore in New South Wales in southeast Australia. A beachgoer spotted them struggling to stay afloat amidst heavy surf and alerted lifeguards.
In a fortuitous twist, the lifeguards were in the middle of a training session, leaning how to use drones in this exact situation. Supervising lifeguard Jai Sheridan piloted the drone, dubbed The Little Ripper.
In a little over a minute, the drone was hovering over the two teens and able to drop an inflatable rescue pod. The two teens were able to climb into the pod and navigate back to shore. Afterward, they were tired but unharmed.
“I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes,” explains Sheridan. “On a normal day that would have taken our lifeguards a few minutes longer to reach the members of the public.”
This is believed to be the first time that a drone has ever been used to deploy a life-saving raft to swimmers in trouble.
The New South Wales government says it recently invested $340,000 in a fleet of drones. Some are equipped with flotation pods like the one used in the rescue of the two teens. Meanwhile, others are designed are designed to spot sharks and may be equipped with loud speakers or alarms.
“The Little Ripper UAV certainly proved itself today,” said Sheridan. “It is an amazingly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment and a delight to fly.”
After the world’s first ocean rescue performed by a drone, it may not be long until other seaside locales start to invest in drone technology that can help save lives.