Two teenage boys swimming off the shore of New South Wales, Australia found themselves in trouble half a mile out from the beach. Then along came a drone that spotted the boys and dropped a yellow flotation device which inflated once it hit the water. The boys were able to grab on and swim to safety.
The drone wasn't on official duty to save swimmers in distress – it was still part of a pilot program just testing the waters. But when lifeguards were notified that the boys were in trouble, the drone was put to real-life-rescue action, taking only 70 seconds to help the boys, rather than the six minutes it would have taken lifeguards to reach them.
According to The Verge:
The drone belonged to company Little Ripper Life Saver, which is currently developing and integrating lifesaving devices into lightweight pods that can be easily mounted and deployed from drones (also known as UAVs — unmanned aerial vehicles). The pods have been designed to deploy automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), flotation devices, electromagnetic shark repellant devices, and personal survival kits (that include water, a thermal blanket, a radio, and a first aid kit).
The New South Wales government says the rescue was a world first. "Never before has a drone, fitted with a floatation device been used to rescue swimmers like this," deputy premier John Barilaro said. Drones are increasingly used to help respond to natural disasters and deliver medical tests and supplies. The drone in today's rescue is similar to the Pars prototype drone, which was created to help save people drowning at sea by also dropping floatation aids to those in trouble.
Interestingly, it was the life-saving drone's first day in action.