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19 January 2018, 02:02 | Floyd Cook
A screenshot from the Little Ripper drone after it dropped the inflatable rescue device to two teenage swimmers in trouble
According to the BBC, "The swimmers, aged 15-17, had got into difficulties off the coast of Lennox Head, New South Wales (NSW)", when a "member of the public spotted them struggling in heavy surf about 700m (2,300ft) offshore". "It only took 70 seconds from when the Little Ripper drone was launched to when it dropped the pod into the ocean for the rescue, a task that would usually take a lifeguard up to six minutes to complete." said New South Wales (NSW) Parliamentary Secretary Ben Franklin.
The call for help just so happened to have sounded as a group of nearby lifeguards were undergoing training in the use of drones.
New South Wales deputy premier, John Barilaro, said the investment had paid off.
"This is a world first rescue", Mr Barilaro said. The video shows the drone releasing a flotation device, which the two teenagers swam toward and clung onto as they are pounded by waves. Australia is leading the use of drone technology in surf lifesaving, with dozens of drones being trialled on beaches nationwide.
Some beaches in Australia have shark nets, but a government report past year called for their phasing out in favour of exploring a range of alternatives, including sonar technology and aerial patrols.
Some are geared towards lifesaving efforts while others are utilized for other purposes, such as spotting sharks in the notoriously infested waters.
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