Already used by the army and firefighters alike, drones could soon lend a helping hand to rescuers working at sea. In Biscarrosse in South West of France, a drone is in use during rescue operations at sea.
According to the latest WHO report, around 392,000 people drown every year on the coast, at an estimated cost of 500 million dollars for the USA, Canada and Australia alone.
Faced with this public health catastrophe, emergency physician Fabien Farge came up with the idea of flying over the waves rather than on them: this led to the creation of Helper, a drone capable of releasing a self-inflating, communicating and connected buoy.
Equipped with many types of technology, since it can be used to monitor coastlines and to help people in distress, this robot is not intended to replace lifeguards, but rather to help them in their duties. Helper has a considerable advantage in one area: its speed. With a maximum authorised speed of 55km/h, it can reach swimmers four times faster than a lifeguard. The rescue drone was designed to withstand the strong winds typical of coastal regions, enabling it to fly in a stationary position to show lifeguards the position of the swimmer. It is equipped with a lifebuoy which can be released with a high degree of accuracy, within just a few centimetres of its target, which inflates automatically upon contact with water. Thanks to its sensors and its camera, the device can record the navigation data that will enable lifeguards to orient themselves and to judge the victim's condition.
It was first used on the coastal region of the Landes (France), which is considered dangerous due to its extremely strong currents and strong swell, and came to the rescue of 50 people, saving three of them from certain death.
This new type of drone has also piqued the interest of a major industrial group which has already carried out a series of tests on its oil rigs in Angola. The Helper will soon be put to other uses: mountain rescue, transporting defibrillators, extinguishing small forest fires, and more.