Lifeguards testing out new drone technology in Australia have saved two people stranded off the coast of New South Wales state, as spotted by Quartz. The drone footage shows a birds-eye view of the ocean before the drone ejects the yellow floatation device, which inflates when it hits the water. The two teenage boys were caught about 700 meters (0.4 miles) offshore at Lennox Head in a swell of around three meters (9.8 feet). They were able to grab onto the floatation device and swim to shore.
“I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes,” lifeguard supervisor Jai Sheridan told reporters. A government official confirmed the rescue took only 70 seconds, compared to the average six minutes it would take for a lifeguard to reach the swimmers. The drones were reportedly only unveiled that morning before being put to use, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The drone belonged to company Little Ripper Life Saver, which is currently developing and integrating lifesaving devices into lightweight pods that can be easily mounted and deployed from drones (also known as UAVs — unmanned aerial vehicles). The pods have been designed to deploy automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), flotation devices, electromagnetic shark repellant devices, and personal survival kits (that include water, a thermal blanket, a radio, and a first aid kit).
The New South Wales government says the rescue was a world first. “Never before has a drone, fitted with a floatation device been used to rescue swimmers like this,” deputy premier John Barilaro said. Drones are increasingly used to help respond to natural disasters and deliver medical tests and supplies. The drone in today’s rescue is similar to the Pars prototype drone, which was created to help save people drowning at sea by also dropping floatation aids to those in trouble.