Drones’ special surf rescue ability

AERIAL drones capable of dropping rescue tubes to stricken swimmers are set to be unleashed on treacherous beaches south of the Gold Coast.

The two unmanned aerial vehicles are being deployed by Cudgen Headland Surf Club at Kingscliff to patrol beaches between Tweed Heads and Ballina, where high numbers of drownings and shark attacks have occurred in recent years.

The initiative has been bankrolled by Gold Coast Airport to help protect interstate and international visitors, as well as locals.

Cudgen Headland SLSC president Adam Mills said the aerial drones would provide lifesavers with vital "eyes in the sky", particularly during search-and-rescue missions.

"The UAVs are fitted with alerting devices and can drop an inflatable rescue tube to distressed swimmers if required," he said.

"They are foldable and fit into a travel case, so they can be carried remotely and launched within minutes.

 

Lifesavers Chloe Jones and Angus Macphail, from Cudgen Headland SLSC, with a drone funded by Gold Coast Airport. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Lifesavers Chloe Jones and Angus Macphail, from Cudgen Headland SLSC, with a drone funded by Gold Coast Airport. Picture: Nigel Hallett

 

"They are piloted using a mobile phone and have infra-red search capability, meaning we can spot people in the water more easily.

"We can also record and messages and safety announcements via the pilot's mobile to be broadcast from the on-board speaker."

Gold Coast Airport boss Marion Charlton said the rate of drownings in the area was alarmingly high, and the drones would undoubtedly help save lives.

"Overseas visitors are particularly vulnerable in our sometimes-unpredictable surf, due to their lack of experience with the conditions," she said.

Lifesavers will use drones on Queensland beaches for the first time this surf patrol season, which starts next month.



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