Drones, the new lifesaving tool within the marine space.

Posted by Sara Betancur on

Public safety officials along with lifeguards and rescue crews around the globe are beginning to incorporate drones into their tactical and quick response tool kit for ocean and swift water rescue. Drones are quick and efficient when it comes to delivering flotation devices to drowning victims, saving time and lives. Just a few seconds in the water could be the difference between life and death.

To date drones have accounted for 880 lifesaving operations. Seeing the success that drones are having the FAA is allocating 2.7 million to explore use of drones in disaster and emergency response.

So how exactly do these drone rescues work?

When alerted of a drowning victim, life guards or public safety officials have the capability to send out a drone for quick temporary relief. This relief comes in the form of either a life vest or a special flotation device, until professional help can arrive. Having the ability to launch drones allows responders more time to assess the situation and make well-informed decisions regarding response and mitigation. Unlike boats, drones are capable of launching quickly and are easy to navigate which is especially important when considering hard to reach areas in the water.

Drones aren’t intended to replace human first responders, they are instead seen as force multipliers, valuable tools to keep the first responders safe and provide relief to victims quicker.

Some of the more popular drone saving techniques being used are dropping auto inflating flotation devices, which are easy for the victim to identify. Switlik’s Techfloat is among those products which can be deployed to a distressed person-in-water from a distance using a drone. The inflatable is removed from the valise and attached to the drone, flown above and dropped to the victim. The underarm flotation device activates upon hitting the water and the victim can swim in and be pulled to safety, or wait for a lifeguard to arrive.

Most recently Switlik partnered with Enterprise UAS on a drone demo rescue using our Techfloat to rescue a drowning victim. You can watch the full video below

Countries such as Spain, Australia, and the UK, have had great success with drones aiding them in rescue and many public safety agencies are beginning to adopt this practice here in the US. One of the caveats around a larger implementation of using drone technology for water-based rescue is the cost. Not only are you required to purchase the drone, you must also have trained pilots (vetted by the FAA) to learn the skills, technical knowledge, and legalities of using and operating a drone to assist with water-based rescues. We can only hope that the research the FAA gathers will be sufficient to warrant a wider adoption of drones in the life saving space, as we've only begun to scratch the surface for what their full capabilities can be in the emergencies field.

Having the ability to quickly and effectively reach people in distress without putting anyone else’s life in danger has been a game changer for the marine community. So next time you’re at the beach look up, there might be a drone patrolling the water.

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