Two teenagers, 16 and 17, who found themselves in danger while swimming in the surf off the coast of Lennox Head, near Byron Bay in northern NSW, were rescued by a drone, reports news.com.au. Someone on the beach noticed their distress and informed lifeguards.
In an amazingly lucky coincidence, the lifeguards were learning how to operate a government drone, which was part of a trial on the north coast of NSW, when the event occurred.
When lifeguard supervisor Jai Sheridan learned the boys were in danger of drowning, the training session became a real-life rescue mission. Sheridan piloted the drone towards the swimmers. It took little over a minute for the drone, which is named “Little Ripper,” to fly the one kilometer needed to reach the teens. It would have taken a human lifeguard six times longer to swim the same distance. Through Little Ripper’s camera, the lifeguard was able to locate the boys. He then dropped the Rescue Pod into the water where the kids would be able to reach it.
The boys were exhausted, but suffered no injuries.
On December 2017, the NSW government announced it would invest $430,000 in drone technology as part of a trial on the north coast of NSW. On its first day of operation, it proved it is worth every penny.
“This is a world first rescue,” Deputy Premier John Barilaro said.
“Never before has a drone, fitted with a flotation device been used to rescue swimmers like this.
“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,” he added.
Although Little Ripper is the first drone to perform such a spectacular rescue, it is not the first drone to save lives. Drones have been used to deliver life-saving blood to remote places such as Rwanda. According to The Guardian, a trip delivering blood which could take four hours takes an average of half an hour via a drone.
This revolutionary method of delivery has been made possible by a partnership between Zipline, a Silicon Valley robotics company, and the Rwanda’s health ministry. So far, it has delivered more than 5,500 units of blood often in life-or-death situations.
The company aims to deliver a range of medical products – including blood transfusion supplies, HIV medication, antimalarials, sutures, and UV tubes – to four bases in Tanzania, supporting more than 1,000 clinics.