With self driving cars and artificial intelligence on every corner and in every publication it’s not a surprise to hear that technology is beginning to affect the world of lifeguarding and life saving as well. While we’re used to our ocean rescue lifeguards throwing themselves into the giant coastal waves, braving the tides, and using rescue boats to reach stranded swimmers way beyond the buoy line, it’s nice to see a new line of water safety tech making an entrance. Drones. Yes, in other words, unmanned aircraft, or UAVs are the latest addition to some beach patrol teams. These aerial vehicles are piloted remotely from the shore by a lifeguard. They are used to drop rescue aids to struggling or drowning swimmers.
The tech was put to the test on Thursday, January 18th off Lennox Head in Australia when a drone rescued two swimmers. Lifeguard teams were conducting a training session on the drone when they noticed two stranded and struggling swimmers. Practice quickly turned into real life application. The team launched the drone and effectively rescued the swimmers in the water. The rescue was completed in an impressive 70 seconds! In this time, the drone was launched from shore and dropped a “rescue pod” into the water. The rescue pod expanded for the swimmers to grab and swim to shore. ( CBC News World, The video posted on CBC last week can be seen here.)
“The rescue was completed in an impressive 70 seconds”
From January 1st to November 3rd in 2014, L.A ocean lifeguards performed 14,331 ocean rescues to reach a record number of rescues. On the hottest days they reached 187 rescues per day alone! (LA Times) Ocean rescue lifeguards and teams are exposed to the dangers of the ocean every day. So, to see a new technology that can help limit their exposure to danger is a welcome relief.
It seems like the age of drones is upon us, as more drones are sold every three months than the entire U.S. military uses. By 2020 the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency anticipates that more than 20,000 drones will be in the air in North America alone. ( CBC-TV Doc Zone ). What other technologically advanced systems will we be seeing in the near future of life saving? From the Autopulse Resuscitation System that does continuous CPR, to the life saving drones off the Lennox Head coast last week, we’ve got an interesting and exciting time ahead of us in the lifeguarding equipment development time-line.