Surf lifesavers at Lennox Head, near Byron Bay, on the New South Wales far north coast, have pioneered the use of drones to help rescue two people in danger of being swept out to sea and drowning.
The two teenage boys were swimming about 1km away from the flags when in heavy surf with a three-metre swell when they were spotted by a member of the public who saw they were in trouble and called lifeguards at around 11.30am yesterday.
As it so happened, the lifeguards were gathered on the beach for a training session involving the “Little Ripper drone” as part of a $430,000 trial by the NSW government involving drone technology – which is also being used in the region to spot sharks in the surf – announced last month.
Deputy premier John Barilaro said the investment had already paid for itself with the “world first rescue”. He was there launching the project just before the drama unfolded, along with the primary industries minister Niall Blair and parliamentary secretary for Northern NSW Ben Franklin.
“Never before has a drone, fitted with a flotation device been used to rescue swimmers like this,” Barilaro said.
The boys were the lucky that the 2017 NSW Lifeguard of the Year, Jai Sheridan, happened to be there running the drone class and immediately launched the “Little Ripper” drone towards them.
It took just 70 seconds before it dropped an inflatable rescue pod into the water beside the swimmers, who were then able to make their way to shore unaided where they were met by lifeguards, fatigued, but otherwise uninjured.
Here’s the footage: