Lifesaving Drone Makes First Rescue in Australia

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A pair of Australian swimmers became the first people to be rescued in the ocean by a drone when the aerial lifesaver dropped a safety device to distressed teens caught in rough seas on January 18, 2018.

Australia is leading the use of the technology in surf lifesaving with dozens of drones being trialed on beaches around the country. Two boys got caught in three-meter (10-foot) swells while swimming off Lennox Head in New South Wales, near the border with Queensland. Beachgoers onshore raised the alarm to the lifeguards who then alerted the drone pilot and the aerial lifesaver was deployed in moments. “I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes,” lifeguard supervisor Jai Sheridan told the Gold Coast Bulletin. “On a normal day that would have taken our lifeguards a few minutes longer to reach the members of the public.”

Artificial intelligence is being developed using thousands of images captured by a drone camera to build an algorithm that can identify different ocean objects. The software can identify sea creatures such as sharks, which are recognize with more than 90 percent accuracy as compared to about 16% with the naked eye. Other than a little weary from their experience the pair were reportedly unharmed. Along with their ability to spot swimmers in trouble and deliver life saving devices faster than conventional lifesaving techniques such as launching surfboards or rubber dinghies.

According to Drone Phones Market Report published by Coherent Market Insights, drone harnesses the power of the smartphone for all additional features such as camera, gyroscope and GPS for its functioning, while the drone itself would be just a housing assembly for the phone and have the mechanical components essential for flight. Some beaches in Australia have shark nets, but a government report last year called for their phasing out in favor of exploring a range of alternatives, including sonar technology and aerial patrols. The inquiry found that nets did not guarantee public safety any more than other deterrents but caused significant damage to marine life.

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