Australian Rescue Drone Cuts Training Short, Goes into Action

Gladys Abbott
January 21, 2018

There is even a video of the rescue being carried out from the viewpoint of the drone itself that can be found on Quartz who first reported the news.

A beachgoer caught a glimpse of the distressed swimmers, 15 and 17, who were fighting risky waves off Australia's Far North Coast in New South Wales. The rescued teens even told 7 News Sydney that when they first saw the drone overhead, they were "more scared that it was going to be a shark alarm" until it dropped the rescue pod.

Monty Greenslade, 16 and Gabe Vidler, 17, said they were initially confused when a drone started hovering above them as they struggled in rough surf off Lennox Head, New South Wales, on Thursday morning.

While such a rescue would be quite a feat for anyone - robot or otherwise - it's the speed with which the drone was able to deploy and perform the rescue that is particularly impressive. The lifesavers just so happened to be in the middle of a training course on how to use drones to drop floatation devices on swimmers in trouble - and so got little real-world schooling.

The Little Ripper only took 70 seconds to reach the swimmers and released the float from above.

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It took little more than a minute for "Little Ripper" to travel the one kilometre from where the lifeguards were situated to the swimmers.

"This was an extraordinary rescue with the very best possible outcome". In addition to drones equipped with flotation devices, Australia is also testing devices capable of spotting sharks, jellyfish and other predators underwater, by using artificial intelligence algorithms based on a large number of photos.

In December 2017 the NSW Government announced it would invest $430,000 in drone technology as part of a trial on the North Coast.

Lifeguard supervisor Jai Sheridan spotted the swimmers about 2,300 feet offshore and launched the drone - hours after the device was taken out of the box - and flew it to the area.

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