Flying Lifeguards – Australia’s ‘Little Ripper’ Drone Saves Swimmers

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

The Little Ripper Drone

Australia's 'Little Ripper' drone has saved a pair of swimmers caught in rough seas in what is thought to be a world-first rescue operation.

Lifeguards were busy testing the UAV as part of New South Wales' $250,000 shark-spotting strategy when a distress call came in.

Within 70 seconds the aerial helper had tracked down the stranded duo and dropped them a self-inflating flotation pod, which they used to safely make their way to shore, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Australia has been leading the charge in deploying drone coast guards, with countries like the UK now following suit.

The 'Little Ripper' UAVs, packed with supplies including inflatable rafts and GPS beacons, can fly through the air for two-and-half hours on a single charge.

In August, it was reported that the drones were being fitted with artificial intelligence technology to map Australia's shark-infested waters. That’s important too, but the potential for drones to save the lives of distressed swimmers is a truly useful role for the much-maligned UAVs.

Around 40 Little Rippers were reportedly shipped to Australia's Surf Life Saving Clubs last year.

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