04 Jan The Future of Lifesaving has arrived
THE DAILY EXAMINER – January 4, 2017
By Claire Morton
THE future of surf life saving has arrived in Yamba, with the first test run of Westpac’s Little Ripper Rescue drones at Monday’s Yamba Ocean Swims.
Two years from now they will be providing a new perspective for every surf life saving club in Australia.
That’s according to Operations Director for Westpac Little Ripper Ben Trollope, who told The Daily Examiner he thought drones would soon be fully integrated into local operations, greatly assisting with shark surveillance and enhancing rescue capabilities at patrolled beaches.
“Essentially it means more eyes, more places, more often,” he said.
To show the Clarence Valley exactly how these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) would be useful in a rescue operation, a public demonstration was held by surf lifesavers and drone operators at Main Beach this week.
Zooming out from the car park, the drone sped to the swimmer’s location, where it dropped an inflatable for the ‘patient’ to latch onto.
Mr Trollope said this feature would give rescuers more time to get to people in need of assistance.
“This technology is designed to be another tool in the toolbox,” he said.
“We’ve got jet skis and we’ve got inflatable rescue boats which are good, but in large seas when people have to swim out it’s much quicker with a UAV. It gives people time in the water. It gives rescuers time to get out to them, but it also makes those people out there feel safe.”
Each drone comes at a cost of about $25,000, but Mr Trollope said an operational trial currently being conducted at shark hot spots along the NSW coast had already proven them to be more cost effective than surveillance helicopters.
The trial is expected to finish at the end of summer.
Mr Trollope said based on current results they would be rolled out to other surf clubs, including those in the Clarence Valley, soon after.