In the not-too-distant future, lifeguards might not be the first rescuers to help out a distressed swimmer. It could be a drone.
More beaches are testing drones to see how quickly they can deliver life jackets to swimmers who are in trouble. The thought is the drone will be able to get a lifejacket out there sooner than a lifeguard who would have to swim or paddle out.
The drone will deliver the life jacket to the distressed swimmer, and the lifeguard will complete the rescue.
The Today show tested this scenario on live TV this morning, so NBC’s Kerry Sanders pretended to be in distress at Pompano Beach, Florida.
So who would get to Sanders first?
The drone reached Sanders in under 20 seconds, while it took the lifeguard 46.3 seconds. That’s a big difference in an emergency where every second counts. However, the drone’s drop mechanism failed for about 24 seconds, finally dropping the life jacket down to Sanders at 43.7 seconds, less than 3 seconds before the lifeguard reached Sanders.
Clearly drones can reach distressed swimmers faster than lifeguards, but the technology can’t fail as it did in the test that you can watch below.
Beaches are also turning to drones to better track sharks in real time, including Seal Beach in California, which recently began using a $1400 drone to monitor its growing great white shark population. Ten minutes after launching the drone during a recent test, the drone captured 10-12 sharks in the area.