Lifeguard drone helps save swimmers off NSW coast

By on 24 January, 2018

Little Ripper Lifesaver, a modified DJI M600 Pro UAV

The Little Ripper Rescue drone had a busy first day on patrol off Lennox Head, saving two teenagers struggling in the surf 700 metres off NSW’s far north coast.

The swimmers’ salvation came in the form of a flotation device dropped by the specially kitted out DJI Matrice 600 Pro UAV modified and developed by NSW-based company Little Ripper Lifesaver.  Local lifeguards got their first crack at using the rescue drone just that morning, and when a supervisor spotted the teens in trouble, it took just minutes to launch the drone and fly it over to them.

The Little Ripper Lifesaver caught the rescue on video, showing the struggling swimmers grab the flotation device after it was dropped nearby, and then swimming to shore.

Surf Life Saving NSW project manager for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), Kelvin Morton, told the ABC that the project was a world-first.

“These UAVs that we’re using to drop these inflatable pods is innovative,” he said. “We know that most or all of the lifesaving organisations around the world are stepping back and waiting to see how this goes.”

The drone is one of two patrolling the coastline between Byron Bay and Port Macquarie as part of a trial in partnership with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Surf Life Saving NSW.

Surveying and photo-imaging distributor CR Kennedy supplied the six-rotor DJI M600 Pro that was used in the rescue.

“Little Ripper specifically required a RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) with the payload capacity to carry their specialised equipment and decided on the M600Pro,” says CR Kennedy’s Quentin Visentin.

“The M600Pro is a premium product and can be used in many different scenarios including from major films with specific cameras to high definition scanners for survey such as the Riegl miniVUX-1UAV scanner.”

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