Drones put to work saving swimmers' lives


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The Independent Online

The men and women charged with protecting swimmers from dangerous tides and sharks at Australian beaches have recruited an unlikely new ally – unmanned drones.

A three-month trial of the small aircraft will begin later this year on North Stradbroke island, off the Queensland coast. The drones – about the size of a model plane, with a wingspan of only a metre – will send real-time footage back to surf lifesavers via a laptop.

If the trial – the first of its kind in the world – is successful, drones could be deployed around the Australian coastline. But they will aid rather than replace the volunteer lifesavers in their distinctive red and yellow uniforms.

Around Australia, 315 people drowned between July 2010 and June 2011, the highest number in nearly 10 years.