Two teens caught in powerful surf conditions off Lennox Head in Australia were rescued using life-saving drone technology, rescuers said Thursday.
Rescue group Surf Life Saving said their “Little Ripper Lifesaver’’ unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) had rescued two boys, aged 17 and 15, who were sucked out to the sea by strong rips and three-meter-high waves.
The lifeguards about a kilometre away deployed the drone after being alerted by the teens’ friends.
It located and dropped an inflatable floatation rescue pod into the water next to the teens, as they held on to it to swim back to shore.
“They survived because of the drone. The lifeguards wouldn’t have been able to access them easily by boat due to rough sea conditions,’’ one rescuer told dpa.
“The boys were exhausted but unharmed,’’ he said.
The drone had been launched on Thursday as part of state government’s pilot project to decrease beachside fatalities.
New South Wales Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, said the investment had paid off.
“This is a world first rescue,’’ he told reporters. “Never before has a drone fitted with a flotation device been used to rescue swimmers like this.’’
Kelvin Morton, Surf Life Saving UAV Project Manager, said the “innovative’’ project gave lifesavers an advantage.
“It gives (rescuers) eyes across the water at a height of 60 metres and they can move at 50 kilometres an hour. They can see things in the water that a jet-ski simply cannot,’’ he said.
The group plans to launch the drones across the state