Drone Saves Lives of Two Teenage Swimmers in Australia

A drone project originally intended for shark surveillance helped save the lives of two teenage swimmers by being the first responder on the scene.
Shelby Rogers
Flotation devices drop from the droneGuardian via YouTube

For the first time ever, a drone was used in an emergency situation to directly save human lives -- and the whole ordeal was caught on camera. Two teenage boys, aged 15 and 17, were rescued by a new type of drone in Australia.

Lifeguards were still in the training phase of using that technology, according to reports. The drones themselves were purchased as part of the New South Wales's government's $16 million shark mitigation strategy. However, when a call came in regarding two distressed swimmers off the coast, the lifeguards used the technology to help immediately. 

Lifeguard supervisor Jai Sheridan was the man behind the controller at the time of the call. He said the craft was able to locate the swimmers within minutes of the original call. 

"The Little Ripper UAV certainly proved itself today, it is an amazingly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment and a delight to fly," Sheridan said. Last year, Sheridan won NSW's Lifeguard of the Year. "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."

John Barilaro serves as Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW. He told the Sydney Morning Herald that the technology's use, as well as the lifeguard team's resourcefulness, was impressive. 

"It's quite incredible to see that the NSW Government's investment in this technology has already resulted in two people having their lives saved," Barilaro said.


Even researchers anticipated that the most exciting this drone could be used for would be better shark surveillance. 

"We are excited the technology was able to be put into action today and it's a great result following more than 18 months of trials that have explored how drones can be used for shark surveillance," said Department of Primary Industries Director of Fisheries Research Natalie Moltschaniwskyj, in a press statement. 

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She also added that the NSW government provided $430,000 in funding to a larger life-saving initiative throughout the NSW surf community. 

"Research conducted by DPI indicates drones will be an important tool for shark detection on our beaches, and it's great to see the benefits of our research working at Lennox Head today," Moltschaniwskyj said.

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