Drone helps rescue two Australian swimmers

By Susan McFarland  |  Jan. 18, 2018 at 7:34 AM
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Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Just hours after being unveiled for a trial run, a new lifesaving drone in Australia helped rescue two teens struggling in heavy surf off the coast of New South Wales.

As lifeguards were learning how to use the new device, a distress call came in after someone saw the boys having a hard time staying afloat in heavy waves about 2,300 feet offshore.

Within two minutes the new drone located the boys, ages 15 and 17, and dropped an inflatable flotation device to them. They made it to the shore unharmed but exhausted.

Lifeguard Supervisor Jai Sheridan was piloting the drone, known as the Little Ripper UAV, which has been in development for three years.

"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," Sheridan said in a news release.

The rescue drones were unveiled at Lennox Head Thursday morning, a collaboration between Surf Life Saving NSW and the State government. Last month government officials announced it would invest $430,000 in drone technology as part of a trial on the New South Wales north coast.

The trial finishes at the end of April with a roll-out of the project across the state to follow.

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