Australian drone saves two swimmers on its first day | News | DW | 18.01.2018
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Australian drone saves two swimmers on its first day

Australian lifeguards used a remote controlled drone to rescue two teenagers caught in 3-meter swells near a popular beach. The rescue team was preparing to test the new device just before the incident.

Shark-spotting drone flying above water north of Sydney (Getty Images/AFP/P. Parks)

Shark-spotting and lifeguard drones are part of the drive to reduce swimmers' deaths

Two Australian teenagers became the world's first surfers to be rescued by a lifeguard drone on Thursday, the same day lifeguard teams first deployed the remote-controlled aircrafts.

A 17-year-old boy and his 15-year-old friend were caught in the waves while swimming off Lennox Head in the Australian state of New South Wales. Beachgoers noticed the surfers were struggling with 3-meter (10-foot) swells and alerted the lifeguards.

A drone with a flotation device (Getty Images/AFP/P. Parks) (Getty Images/AFP/P. Parks)

Shark-spotting drones were previously tested near Sydney

Luckily, the lifeguards on the beach were preparing for a training session with an unmanned drone. The drone pilot deployed the device from about a kilometer (0.62 miles) away and located the two, after which he dropped the inflatable flotation rescue pod near them. By clinging onto the pod, they were able to swim back to shore.

"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.

Read more: Large shark kills woman in Western Australia

"On a normal day that would have taken our lifeguards a few minutes longer to reach the members of the public."

The two were unharmed by the ordeal, according to the state authorities.

Eye in the sky

New South Wales first launched dozens of rescue drones for trial runs on Thursday as part of a pilot project to decrease beachside fatalities.

Read more: Drones track plastic waste

"This is a world first rescue," said New South Wales deputy premier John Barilaro. In addition to drones equipped with flotation devices, Australia is also testing devices capable of spotting sharks, jellyfish and other predators underwater, by using artificial intelligence algorithms based on a large number of photos.

The drones can spot potential emergencies from 60 meters above water and move at speeds reaching 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph), according to Surf Life Saving rescue organization which is testing the drones.

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dj/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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