Contestants compete in the men's team snowboardcross during the Toyota US Grand Prix at Solitude Mountain Resort.

‘Droneboarding’ Could Be The Next Extreme Winter Sport, And It Could Save Lives [Video]

If you are into extreme sports, then you are going to want to check out “droneboarding.” It could be the next big craze in extreme sports, and it might have potential life-saving applications as well.

Researchers in Latvia are developing a personal drone that can lift up to 320 pounds, Phys.org recently reported. And they’ve been using the drones to drag snowboarders across icy lakes at breakneck speeds.

“Skirted on all sides by snow-clad pine forests, Latvia’s remote Lake Ninieris would be the perfect picture of winter tranquility—were it not for the huge drone buzzing like a swarm of angry bees as it zooms above the solid ice surface,” Mike Collier writes for Phys.org. “The powerful three-meter-long (nine-foot) drone, sporting 16 spinning propellers, is fitted with long tow ropes with handles, the kind used in water-skiing.”

Snowboarders hold onto the handles as the drone drags them across the ice at speeds of up to 60 mph.

That’s right. It’s a nine-foot wide drone with 16 propellers. And it drags snowboarders around at up to 60 mph. The drone can drag up to four snowboarders at a time. In theory, the drone could be able to reach speeds of up to 94 mph.

The drone is a project by Latvian specialists Aerones. While it seems like the company is using the drone primarily for entertainment and extreme sports purposes at the moment, the ultimate goal of the Aerones drone is actually to help first responders save lives.

“It’s not just for droneboarding,” Aerones CEO Janis Putrams says, according to Phys.org. “We could use it to lift someone from the roof of a burning building, or a hose could be sprayed on parts of a fire that would be inaccessible to ladders.”

The company is currently looking to partner with firefighter and search-and-rescue organizations to explore ways the $37,000 drones could be incorporated into their efforts.

“It seems to be a successful test,” Putrams said after the droneboarding experiment on Lake Ninieris.

“We started thinking about it two years ago. It was a sort of Friday afternoon idea and we just wondered if it would be possible…But the idea was always to build something big, to see how much power it could have. Luckily in Latvia we have both great engineers and great winters, so it’s ideal for droneboarding”

Putrams is optimistic about the future market and potential applications for the drones, but he also acknowledges that it will still be some time before the experimental drones can be deployed in any sort of widespread manner.

“[T]here will need to be a lot of certification before we see large numbers of these drones operating commercially, to make sure only safe drones are used,” Putrams said.

While Putrams realizes the current limitations of the drones and droneboarding, others are eager to get the drones flying and push the limits of what droneboarding could be.

“It’s very cool. But the ultimate would be to control your own drone while you were snowboarding,” Phys.org quoted 22-year-old wakeboarder Anita Leina as saying.

The drones are currently controlled by a remote control operated by someone other than the droneboarder.

Davis Ceze, a 24-year-old wakeboarder and snowboarder, added that in its current iteration droneboarding on a lake may actually be easier than snowboarding down a mountain.

“It’s actually easier than snowboarding on the mountain because it’s flat,” Ceze said. “You don’t need to read the hill and you can get constant speeds.”

Either way, droneboarding definitely has potential in both the extreme sports, and the Aerones drones could have other uses in search-and-rescue markets once it is further developed.

[Featured Image by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images]

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