Michael Pehel

Jul 8, 2015 9:20:18 AM

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Summertime is here, and people will be flocking to the beaches, ready to hit the water. Wanting to keep swimmers safe, researchers, lifeguards, and search and rescue teams are increasingly using drones in their efforts to improve safety and respond to emergency situations.

Earlier this year in Chile, X-Cam and Green Solution started a pilot project to deliver lifesavers via unmanned aerial vehicles to swimmers in distress and in danger of drowning. Equipped with a loudspeaker, a floatation device and LED lights, the drones provide help and instructions until rescuers arrive. The overall goal is to get initial care to the person in danger down to 30 seconds.

The theory got put to the test in Mechanic Falls, Maine, last week when two boys stranded after a tubing accident received emergency support from a Phantom 3 operated by the local fire department. On a rock surrounded by raging river water on all sides, the two boys, ages 12 and 18, had only one life vest between them. Fire Chief Frank Roma used the Phantom 3 to send a line down to the boys to deliver an extra vest until a rescue boat could retrieve them.

Long Branch, N.J., also plans to use drones to aid lifeguards in rescue, and in addition will utilize them for threat assessment as well. Dan George, the chief of Long Branch’s beach patrol, wants to use drones to monitor the beaches in the event of a shark sighting. If adopted by the city council, Long Branch would join California’s Seal Beach and Surfside Beach as early adopters of this progressive new safety initiative.

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