Incredible footage released of drone sea rescue attempt

19 Jan 2018

Image: RugliG/Shutterstock

The future of emergency services is most definitely going to be all about drones, as new footage from Australia has shown.

While it was once a major operation to fly a helicopter out to anyone stranded at sea – which, in itself, could take up precious time – drone technology can now enable someone to receive a flotation device in minutes.

This was the scene in New South Wales Australia (NSW) recently where, according to ABC News, a rescue drone service that had just launched was called into action a day later to provide assistance to two teenagers struggling 700 metres offshore in a dangerous swell.

After a member of the public alerted the coastguard, the Surf Life Saving NSW drone flew into action. Taking off, spotting the two teenagers and deploying a flotation device for them only took 70 seconds.

Once the flotation device was dropped and the two clung on to it, they were able to swim back to shore, as was seen in footage released by its operators.

‘A world-first rescue’

“This is a world-first rescue,” said the NSW deputy premier, John Barilaro. “Never before has a drone fitted with a flotation device been used to rescue swimmers like this.”

The state’s government had previously said it was going to invest A$430,000 in drone technology to trial its use along its coastline, and now it appears that it has had an immediate pay-off.

The drone’s operator and lifeguard supervisor, Jai Sheridan, described the whole experience as “unreal”.

“I’m just so happy that it was a really good outcome and these two boys were able to make it to shore safely. Stuff can happen in a matter of seconds out in the surf. It’s ever-changing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Surf Life Saving NSW project manager Kelvin Morton said it is obvious that drone technology offers something for emergency rescue that traditional methods simply can’t compete with.

“It gives [emergency services] eyes across the water at a height of 60 metres and they can move at 50kph. They’ve never had that ability before. They can see things in the water that a jet-ski simply cannot.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic