How drones could save you from drowning

microdrones lifesaving drones

[Editor’s Note: DLRG (German Life Saving Association) asked Microdrones to perform a demonstration in which drones could be used for saving people from drowning.]

This post originally appeared on http://www.zdnet.com/article/how-drones-could-save-you-from-drowning/.

Drones could soon become a standard life-saving tool for lifeguards and rescue teams.

Even just a few seconds in the water can mean the difference between life and death, and robots can fly much faster than people can swim. On his best day, Michael Phelps swims at 6 mph, but drones can reach speeds of 50 mph or more. Plus, smart drones equipped with sensors could help locate survivors lost at sea.

Microdrones just released a new video that shows how unmanned aerial vehicles can drop off flotation devices to help save people from drowning. An association of German lifeguards, DLRG (German Life Saving Association), asked the drone company to develop the drone demonstration, but this technique could be used by rescuers around the world, and by other unmanned aerial vehicles, for that matter.

Last summer, a fire chief in Maine used his personal drone to assist with a river rescue. Two teens were floating down a river with inner tubes when they were knocked off their tubes and became stranded on a rock in the middle of rushing river. While the rescue team worked on the two-hour rescue, the fire chief flew his personal drone — a Phantom 3 that he usually uses for aerial photography — to deliver a life jacket to the stranded people.

Auburn, Maine Fire Chief Frank Roma told his local news station WMTW, “I think we’ve only begun to scratch the surface for what their full capabilities can be in the emergencies field. I was able to see exactly what the drone was seeing. I was able to direct it to where it needed to be.”

While a regular consumer drone worked for the Maine river incident, rescue crews would benefit even more if they used machines that were specifically designed for this scenario, and several companies are already working to address this challenge.

DJI recently partnered with 3D-printing startup Shapeways to sponsor a contest for modifying the Phantom to turn it into a rescue drone. According to the contest guidelines:

By adding 3D printed accessories that can improve the drone’s visibility, carry payloads and land on water, first responders could cover more area, cutting response times while monitoring hard to navigate waters. More lives would be saved, and fewer first responders put at risk, all thanks to your 3D printed drone modification.

The ideal rescue drone will have to remain stable in harsh marine environments. Microdrone’s marketing director Mike Dziok tells ZDNet, “The robust physical characteristics of our drone make it well suited to be stationed for service near at a wet, sandy, salty environment.” He added, “The flight characteristics and stability make it well suited to maneuvering in a tricky flight situation, despite the presence of some wind or rain.”

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