Two students from University of Wollongong have won an innovation award for using a quadcopter UAV to quickly deliver a floatation device to a distressed swimmer.
The UAV, designed by Nicolas Roach and Leo Stevens, uses magnets to carry a floatation device out to sea, releasing it via a remote switch operated by the lifesaver on-shore. This can buy crucial extra time before the manned rescue vessel can reach the swimmer.
“We custom built a housing which allowed the [rescue tube] to be fixed to the bottom of the drone and released on command using a radio signal,” said Mr Stevens.
He said he came up with the idea after working as a life guard for several years.
“My work as a lifeguard put me into situations where I saw a need for some way to deliver a tube to a swimmer in trouble, preferably without putting a lifeguard in danger, and this is one way I perceived that could be done.”
“I think where this drone will shine is in really big swell. [In] rough conditions where it is very difficult for a very strong swimmer to make [their] way out through the surf. Having this to be able to fly over and deliver the tube straight away gives you the time to perform the rescue as you want.”
Professor Geoffrey Spinks from said the drone is a “brilliant invention bringing technologies together to potentially to save lives.”
The pair were awarded the top prize for their invention as part of the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Works! Competition, and the drone has already caught the attention of Surf Lifesaving Australia.
The two creators are hoping this state of the art drone will be dropping lifesaving floatation devices on Australian beaches this summer.
“I think it has absolutely got a place on Australian beaches,” Stevens said. “If it gets there on the coming months that would be fantastic, but certainly sometime in the future these drone technologies will make their way into everyday life.”