Taking a swim in the sea can be a wonderful experience, but when the tides change and waves grow stronger, it can really put a damper on a relaxing day out.
Swimmers may find themselves stranded away from the shore, powerless to get back lest someone rescue them … or, in this case, something.
On January 18, two teenagers were enjoying their time in the water off Lennox Head, Australia, a popular surfing beach, when heavy waves kicked in.
The two teens were struggling in the heavy surf far from the shore.
The boys were 2,300 feet offshore and unable to make it back through the 10-foot swell to the beach on their own. Luckily, another person on the beach spotted them and alerted the lifeguards.
Normally, it would have taken several minutes for lifeguards to jump in and reach them.
Fortunately, they had something on-hand that could save the swimmers much quicker.
The local government had recently issued drones to lifeguards as part of their shark mitigation strategy. The lifeguards were still getting used to operating their equipment, and it just so happened that New South Wales’ 2017 Lifeguard of the Year, Jai Sheridan, was about to run a training exercise about using the drone to rescue swimmers.
As soon as he got reports of the teenagers in trouble, he immediately responded to the emergency. Tracking down the swimmer’s location within minutes, he piloted the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to save them.
The “Little Ripper,” as he calls it, dropped down a rescue pod, which the swimmers then grabbed on to as they made their way back to shore.
“The Little Ripper UAV certainly proved itself today, it is an amazingly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment and a delight to fly,” Sheridan told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes. On a normal day that would have taken our lifeguards a few minutes longer to reach the members of the public.”
While tired, the swimmers showed no signs of injury.
Yet not only was the rescue impressive, it was historic as well.
“Never before has a drone, fitted with a flotation device, been used to rescue swimmers like this,” said John Barilaro, Deputy Premier of New South Wales, in a statement.
Once the swimmers were located, it only took the drone 70 seconds to do something that would have taken human rescuers up to 6 minutes to pull off!